Earlier this month, Nick Winser CBE, Electricity Network Commissioner for the UK Government and Chair of the Energy Systems Catapult, published an independent report including recommendations on how to accelerate the deployment of electricity transmission infrastructure.
In an era defined by the need to transition to clean energy sources, this report emerges as a guiding compass, charting a course toward a more agile and responsive electricity transmission sector. Supported by the wider team at the Energy Systems Catapult (ESC), this comprehensive piece of work highlights key challenges and makes 18 recommendations to Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero.
Marine Energy Wales supports all the recommendations made, particularly those listed below.
Key challenge: speeding up deployment
Winser acknowledges the multifaceted challenges surrounding connection queues, physical transmission constraints, and distribution delays. While recognising that these issues will not be fully resolved through accelerated strategic transmission, he identifies speed as a key catalyst for addressing these complexities effectively.
Supporting recommendations: set ambitious timelines and streamline planning process
The report advocates for a paradigm shift in the timeline for strategic transmission deployment. By pushing for a more ambitious goal of completing deployment within seven years, it aims to mitigate the consequences of building wind generation faster than customer connections, thus averting high congestion costs and underutilisation of clean energy generation.
Key challenge: outdated National Policy Statements (NPS)
The Energy NPS lack the necessary guidance to address modern challenges such as onshore vs. offshore installations, environmental trade-offs, and other critical decisions.
Supporting recommendations: update NPS and introduce Strategic Spatial Energy Plan
To bridge this gap, the report proposes the revision of NPS to reflect current priorities and the introduction of a Strategic Spatial Energy Plan (SSEP). This plan would provide much-needed clarity on the position and necessity of new transmission lines within an integrated system.
Key challenge: zonal flexibility and renewables integration
The growing importance of renewables integration and flexibility demands innovative solutions to ensure efficient network utilisation.
Supporting recommendations: establish zonal flexibility markets
The report advocates for the creation of zonal flexibility markets, aligning with the integration of renewables. These markets would facilitate faster connections, optimise network investments, and enable a smoother transition to a cleaner energy future.
Key challenge: clarity in roles and responsibilities
Clear delineation of roles among stakeholders is essential for effective collaboration and decision-making in the transmission deployment process.
Supporting recommendations: define stakeholder responsibilities
To overcome ambiguity, the report calls for a comprehensive definition of the roles and responsibilities of key players including the Government, Ofgem, the Future System Operator (FSO), and the Transmission Owners (TOs). This clarity will streamline processes and enhance efficiency.
Key challenge: educating communities and effectively delivering community benefits
The report draws attention to the fact that “there are no agreed and public rules or guidance on community benefit, so affected individuals and communities are confronted with infrastructure proposals that are difficult to understand and may bring detriment to their lives.”
Supporting Recommendations: establish a clear and public set of guidelines for community benefit
The report calls for Government and Ofgem to agree and publish guidelines on benefit sharing for individuals and communities affected by new or upgraded transmission lines.
The report also calls for the FSO and TOs to work with the Government to design and implement a focused information campaign on the need for a grid refresh. The importance of this work to the UK and to the environment needs to be communicated to the whole population so that when individual proposals for reinforcement are made, communities have some context in which to view them.
We now need action to implement these changes and reach the target of reducing upgrade delivery times by 50%.
As stated by REGEN in their response to the report, “We now know the scale and importance of the grid challenge. We also have a clear set of recommendations on the action required that the government broadly accepts. What we do not yet have is the urgency and commitment from government to drive change at the speed and scale required. “