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Research has revealed that numerous green energy projects worth billions of pounds are currently on hold in the UK due to the inability to connect to the electricity grid. Delays of up to 10 to 15 years are being experienced by some solar and wind sites due to insufficient capacity in the grid system. This issue, known as the “grid,” has raised concerns among renewable energy companies as it could jeopardise the UK’s climate targets.

The National Grid, responsible for managing the system, acknowledges the problem but asserts that fundamental reform is necessary. The UK has set a target of achieving 100% carbon-free electricity production by 2035. However, meeting this goal requires a significant increase in the number of renewable projects across the country, estimated to be up to five times more solar and four times more wind than currently available.

Since 2010, the government and private investors have invested £198 billion in renewable power infrastructure. However, energy companies now warn that significant connection delays for their green energy projects pose a threat to their ability to expand green power generation. A renewable project, whether a wind farm or solar site, can only supply energy to homes once it is connected to the grid.

Octopus Energy, one of Europe’s largest investors in renewable energy, has been informed by the National Grid that it may have to wait up to 15 years for some connections, far beyond the government’s 2035 target. The calculations suggest that there are currently over £200 billion worth of projects in the connection queue. National Grid’s own figures indicate that around 40% of these projects face a wait of at least a year, representing delayed investments worth tens of billions of pounds.

“We currently have one of the longest grid queues in Europe,” according to Zoisa North-Bond, chief executive of Octopus Energy Generation.

The issue arises from the overwhelming number of new renewable projects seeking connections, overwhelming the capacity of the grid. The existing system was designed when only a few fossil fuel power plants required connections each year, but now there are 1,100 projects waiting in the queue.

Local entities, such as Torbay Council, have been affected by these delays. The council is in the process of constructing a 6-hectare solar plant in Torquay to generate funds for local services. However, it has been informed that the plant will not be connected to the grid for another five years.

“Worryingly, there are some indications that that could slip into the mid 2030s”, said Alan Denby from Torbay Council. “That’s a real problem for the council in that we declared that we wanted to be carbon neutral by 2030.”

To address the situation, National Grid intends to refine the criteria for project applications to ensure that only the most promising ones enter the queue. However, substantial investment is also needed to restructure the grid and accommodate a greater number of power sources. Roisin Quinn, director of customer connections at National Grid, emphasises the necessity of this investment.

“Fundamental reform is needed,” she said. “More infrastructure is needed. We are working very hard to design and build at a faster pace than we ever have done before.”

The Energy Networks Association, representing UK network operators responsible for connecting homes to the main National Grid system, calls for accelerated planning processes to facilitate the rapid construction of electricity infrastructure. The government is expected to announce an action plan to expedite connections later this year.

A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson said: “We have connected the second highest amount of renewable electricity in Europe since 2010 but we recognise the challenge of connection delays.”

Ofgem, the energy regulator overseeing the operators, acknowledges that all stakeholders are striving to catch up with the government’s targets. To finance the significant upgrades required by the grid,

Rebecca Barnett, director of networks at Ofgem, said: “The targets have been increasing in the last two or three years dramatically and there is a long lead in investment time that is needed to commit, develop, and deliver these really big assets.

“I think that has caused a real problem; we definitely need to catch up. The incremental approach of the past is not fit for purpose.”

Ofgem has granted National Grid permission to raise an additional £20 billion over the next 40 years from customer bills. While customers have faced soaring household prices due to geopolitical tensions and gas price volatility, Ofgem believes that this new investment will have a minimal impact on bills and help shoulder the burden of energy price fluctuations.

“The future is for green, more secure and in fact cheaper energy. We know there is some investment cost needed to get us there, but in the long run it is going to be cheaper for us all,” she said.



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