National Grid ESO is introducing a new two-stage process for applying for a grid connection, as it looks to increase certainty for developers and tackle the long wait-times experienced by many.
The new process will require 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.
But customers will not need to include detailed works, programme 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.
Once this first phase is accepted, there will be a maximum of nine months after counter signature of Step One. A meeting will be held with the costumer to give an update on the wider results following the completion of the TRW review, as well as to discuss when the customer can expect the follow-up of the Step Two Offer to be issued and the likely result.
Next, the Step Two offer will update that issued at Step One based on the TRW review and contracted background, identifying any transmission works needed for the project.
Offers will be progressed in regional batches to make them as efficient as possible. The ESO and National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET) will engage on a monthly basis via a regular webinar with the industry to see how the process is progressing.
This two-step application process – which will apply 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 new five-point plan for updating the connection process for the electricity transmission grid.
The plan includes:
- Operating a Transmission Entry Capacity Amnesty until April 2023
- Updating modelling assumptions to reflect current connection rates, reducing the assumption that most projects in the queue will connect
- Changing the treatment of storage to allow such projects to be connected faster, freeing up capacity for other projects
- Developing new contractual terms for connection contracts to manage the queue more efficiently
- Offering an interim option for storage projects to connect to the network sooner, albeit with the caveat that they may be required to turn off more frequently than other generators and without initially being paid to do so
The changes come amid growing concern that a lack of grid connections could hamper Britain’s transition to net zero, as renewable energy projects face long lead times – as detailed in Current± mini-series Current± Explores: The Grid Connection Conundrum.
The ESO Future Energy Scenarios modelling suggests the country needs between 123-147GW of low carbon transmission generation by 2030 to be net zero compliant.
There is already 83GW of such generation connected, and as of February 2023, a 257GW with contracts for future connection to the transmission system. This is more than three times what will be required.
Currently, only 30-40% of projects in the TEC queue make it to fruition but as it operates on a first-come-first-served basis many projects that could more readily supply energy for Britain are being held up by others. Amidst this challenge, the ESO has taken the steps outlined above.
“We’re evolving our network to make it fit for the future, to deliver net zero and keep clean power flowing to the growing number of homes and business across Great Britain, fuelling our economy,” said Julian Leslie, ESO head of networks and chief engineer.
“We recognise the frustration some of our connections customers are experiencing and through this package of short-term initiatives and longer-term reforms we are determined to address the challenges with the current process which was not designed to operate the sheer scale of applications we are receiving today.”
Beyond these short-term initiatives, the ESO is also looking at a longer-term programme of reform as part of its Connections Reform Project.
In December it published a report setting out the case for change, and the ESO has now moved into the design phase of the project, working to identify longer-term reforms. These will be set out in the coming months ahead of implementation later this year.