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Blow to wind power revolution as grid struggles to keep up  

Credit:  Delays threaten to derail the Government's ambitious targets for renewable energy | By Rachel Millard | The Telegraph | 21 May 2022 | www.telegraph.co.uk ~~

Samuel Rickitt is among the many green energy entrepreneurs trying to meet the Government’s call for a boom in green electricity generation.

But as he sets out trying to set up a new 49.9MW solar park in Staffordshire, he has come up against a problem: several other new energy projects are in the works nearby, and the local substation needs to be upgraded so they can safely join the electricity grid.

Mr Rickitt, director of operations at RevolutionNRG, has been told that on current plans those upgrades won’t be ready for more than five years and possibly as long as seven, an uncertain and costly outlook against which he now has to plan his project and manage other processes such as planning permission.

It might even turn out that he is asked not to export all of his power all of the time, due to the system constraints.

“If you are trying to run a business, these are impossible parameters, and it’s not value for money for the consumer,” he said.

Mr Rickitt is very far from alone. As renewable energy developments grow in line with the drive to cut carbon emissions, work to connect them to the national electricity grids so their power can be used by homes and industry is struggling to keep pace.

A huge queue of projects is developing, requiring new cables, transformers, substations and pylons. Many have been told they cannot connect until 2028. Some particularly complex ones face connection dates ten years from now.

The delays threaten to derail the ambitious targets for renewable energy the government has set, increased in recent months in the scramble to ditch Russian energy supplies and boost domestic energy security.

“We need to speed things up,” argues Barnaby Wharton, director for future electricity systems at Renewable UK, the trade group. “If we fail to deliver the network needed, we won’t meet those targets.”

The shift to wind and solar power has triggered a step change in demand for connections. John Pettigrew, chief executive of National Grid, which owns the main electricity transmission network, says he has seen a “tenfold” increase in the number of projects wanting to connect, amid that shift. “It’s a real issue,” he says.

The FTSE 100 company has also just bought the UK’s largest local power distribution network, Western Power Distribution, in a bet on the move towards greater electrification. Enabling it rather than delaying it is the Grid’s challenge now, however.

Roisin Quinn, director of customer connections at National Grid, says there is about 130GW of capacity currently contracted to connect to the transmission network – almost double the UK’s entire installed generating capacity and enough to meet net zero “comfortably”.

Not all of it will actually materialise, however, as developers regularly drop out of projects, for example after failing to get financing or planning permission.

National Grid is working on an “amnesty” that would allow developers to drop out of grid connection contracts without paying a break fee, to try and “spring clean” the queue and focus on viable projects, among other efforts to try and get projects connected faster.

National Grid and local network owners are also keen to be allowed by regulators to invest more ahead of need, as well as for faster planning application processes.

“Issues remain, particularly around planning and regulation,” says Randolph Brazier, director of innovation at the Energy Networks Association, which represents energy networks. Network owners earn revenue to invest from a regulated levy on consumer bills; transmission currently accounts for about £23 per year per household.

Pete Aston, specialist connections engineer at the grid consultancy Roadnight Taylor, says while larger projects have longer build times anyway, smaller ones can less afford to wait. “A community solar developer was saying, ‘we’ve got this funding, we’ve got this community project, and I’m being told I can’t connect till 2030’, ” he says.

Developers are often offered to get onto the grid faster if they agree to turn down their output at times when output from others is high and the grid risks getting overwhelmed.

Curtailing generation at a time of concern over energy security bristles with critics and rankles some developers whose revenue is affected, although supporters argue it is an important tool to manage the network.

Developers are not paid for this arrangement, but get the benefit of faster, cheaper connections. “Some of these accepted offers contain very high levels of curtailment, with the developers hoping that other schemes in the pipeline will pull out, to reduce the predicted curtailment,” added Mr Aston.

For now, patience is the only option, he says. “I tell my clients, you’ve got to be prepared to have a long connection date,” he says. “I just prepare them for that probability. They might get lucky.”

[rest of article available at source]

Source:  Delays threaten to derail the Government's ambitious targets for renewable energy | By Rachel Millard | The Telegraph | 21 May 2022 | www.telegraph.co.uk

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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