As we come to the end of our Current± Explores: The Grid Connection Conundrum mini-series, it is important to highlight the many different organisations working hard to solve grid connection delays.
We have seen a number of solutions being explored by distribution network operators (DNO), National Grid ESO, Ofgem and our sponsor, NG Bailey in this series alone. All these organisations must work together to reduce connection delays and ensure the UK is able to achieve decarbonisation targets.
In addition to this, it is important to recognise the speed with which organisations are trying to enact change, often to decades old systems and infrastructure. For instance, midway through our series, National Grid ESO unveiled a new two-stage process for applying for a grid connection, as it looked to increase certainty for developers and tackle the long wait times experienced by many.
The new process requires customers to provide an offer in standard terms that identifies a connection site or point, and the completion date based on the existing Transmission Entry Capacity (TEC) queue and current Transmission Reinforcement Works (TRW) that demonstrates the scale of work needed to connect.
Customers will not need to include detailed works, programmes or indicative costs and charges. No transmission works will be identified for the purposes of the connection stage, and securities will be set at £0.
This two-step application process – which came into action from 1 March 2023 in England and Wales, and will run as an interim measure for 12 months whilst a TRW review is undertaken – is part of the ESO’s five-point plan for updating the connection process for the electricity transmission grid.
In the first part of the series, Grid connectivity: the scale of the issue at hand, the Energy Networks Association highlighted that “investment will be key for tackling grid connection challenges, with a total of £29.5 billion forecasted investment expected to have been made during the eight-year period of RIIO-ED1”.
Ofgem confirmed further funding for the RIIO-ED2, which the energy regulator stated in the latest story in the mini-series.
“The ED2 price control equates to around a 17% increase in annual spending, with load-related expenditure allowances having doubled from the previous price control period (ED1). By challenging the companies robustly on their operating and financing costs we can accommodate this increase in investment while keeping network charges flat in real terms, thereby avoiding further pressure on consumer bills,” Ofgem says.
“We are confident this represents a fair deal for companies and their investors while protecting consumers against paying higher costs than necessary.
“The design of the mechanisms has avoided placing unnecessary costs on consumers at a time of economic uncertainty, whilst also ensuring that the DNOs can invest in their networks as demand materialises to ensure that our networks enable net zero at lowest cost.”
A positive here is that network operators and partners are pouring investment into the sector. These hopefully will bring the network into a new era of energy, ensuring it is able to cope with the sheer number of technologies wanting to connect.
Alongside these measures, National Grid ESO is exploring a range of methods to solve grid connection delays. This includes the TEC amnesty, a process run by the ESO, in partnership with Transmissions Owners (TOs), whereby all parties with Connections Agreements listed on the TEC register are asked to confirm whether they would be willing to terminate their agreement at minimal or no cost or reduce the number of projects sat on the TEC register that are unlikely to ever come to fruition. This could allow new projects, with a greater likelihood of being accepted, to be fast-tracked onto the grid.
Beyond this, National Grid ESO is exploring additional measures to manage the TEC register with hopes to create an easier process for projects to be connected to the grid.
With the issues surrounding grid connectivity set to continue in the coming years, it is clear the topic will not disappear overnight. Those within the industry will need to continue to collaborate to ensure it is resolved through regulatory changes, technological innovation and traditional expansion. But what is positive is that the correct steps are being made to solve the issue and with further action, net zero may still be achievable.
Current± will be back with our next mini-series in the coming weeks focusing on the Review of Market Arrangements (REMA) and the impact it could have on the UK energy system as we know it.