The National Grid is expediting the integration of approximately 20GW of clean energy initiatives into its electricity transmission and distribution networks in England and Wales. This initiative is part of an ongoing collaborative effort across the industry.
Specifically, on the transmission network, a new strategy is enabling 19 battery energy storage projects, totaling about 10GW, to be offered earlier connection dates, averagely four years sooner than their current agreements. This updated approach eliminates the need for non-essential engineering works before connecting storage facilities.
This policy forms part of the National Grid’s connections reform initiative, particularly targeting transmission capacity. The Electricity System Operator (ESO) is leading this effort as it manages the contractual relationships with the projects seeking connections, in collaboration with National Grid Electricity Transmission (ET), responsible for designing and constructing the necessary transmission infrastructure in England and Wales.
Regarding the distribution network in the Midlands, South West of England, and South Wales, an additional 10GW of unlocked capacity will hasten the connection of numerous low-carbon technology projects. This advancement will bring forward some ‘shovel-ready’ schemes by up to five years.
National Grid has already engaged with over 200 projects interested in accelerating their distribution connection dates. In the initial phase of capacity release, 16 projects have shown interest in connecting within the next 12 months, and another 180 are seeking to connect within two to five years.
The acceleration of 20GW is equivalent to the capacity of six Hinkley Point C nuclear power stations. This effort follows extensive collaboration with industry, Ofgem, and the government, aiming to innovate solutions for faster and more flexible integration of clean energy projects.
One of these solutions involves coordinated efforts between Britain’s transmission and distribution networks, as part of the Energy Networks Association (ENA)’s three-step plan for connections. This aims to effectively manage the technical interface between networks, unlocking gigawatts of capacity.
The revised approach to transmission storage connections, a flagship policy in the ESO’s plan to expedite connections, is occurring as National Grid ET conducts a thorough review of projects in the connections pipeline. This review identifies projects that can be brought forward based on new planning assumptions agreed upon with the ESO.
Traditionally, National Grid used to reinforce networks before a project could connect, which often added years to the process. This was based on the assumption that batteries would charge during peak times and export energy when generation was high, potentially exacerbating system peaks and constraints.
Now, following detailed technical analysis by transmission engineers, selected battery projects will be offered a transmission connection before network reinforcements, with an agreement that the ESO can adjust the battery’s behavior in specific operating conditions to mitigate its impact on the system.
In the upcoming phase anticipated in the new year, another set of clean energy projects, primarily batteries and hybrids (batteries combined with wind or solar), will also be offered accelerated transmission connections, potentially bringing forward an additional 10GW.
President of National Grid Electricity Transmission, Alice Delahunty, said “We’re committed to speeding up connections and creating a ‘fit for the future’ process for plugging projects into the grid.”
“Bringing these battery projects forward is one of a range of actions that our electricity transmission business is delivering alongside the system operator and wider industry to unlock clean energy capacity in England and Wales.”
“We’re really encouraged by the recognition these early joint steps by our industry are receiving. They’re paving the way for the more fundamental connections reform that we’re collectively working with government and the regulator to deliver to keep Britain on track for a secure, affordable and net zero energy system.”
Engineers from National Grid’s distribution business are also working through the potential for acceleration and will be contacting project owners individually to discuss next steps.”
A second expression of interest is being rolled out to the next group of customers. Coupled with plans to replace the ‘first come, first served’ distribution connections process with a more dynamic ‘first ready, first connected’ approach developed through collaborative work with the ENA, this second wave will allow even more low carbon projects to connect faster, boosting the UK’s journey towards net zero.
President of National Grid Electricity Distribution, Cordi O’Hara, said “We’re delighted that so many customers have already expressed an interest in taking advantage of this additional capacity to accelerate the connection dates for their low carbon technologies.”
“But we’re not stopping there. Our second expression of interest will extend the offer to even more customers who will be able to benefit from our more agile approach to connections, enabling the UK to install the renewable generation needed to decarbonise the electricity system by 2035.”
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