Speeding up the delivery of strategic transmission is both vital and challenging. The UK should celebrate the extraordinary progress that we have made in developing offshore wind generation and our ambitions reach much further.
To deliver 50GW of wind power and 24GW of new nuclear will be a major step towards decarbonising our economy and providing customers with clean, secure, affordable electricity, but that magnificent achievement will be wasted if we cannot get the power to homes and businesses.
The implications of being able to build wind generation faster than the associated connections to customers will be serious: very high congestion costs for customers, and clean, cheap domestic energy generation standing idle, potentially for years.
Currently, the expectation is that strategic transmission may take twelve to fourteen years from identification of the need to commissioning. Very few new transmission circuits have been built in the last 30 years and a dramatic increase will be required through to 2050, so even these long timescales may be challenging to meet if we fail to streamline the process. Substantial wind generation can be built in half this time.
The Secretary of State at the time, set the Electricity Networks Commissioner (and Energy Systems Catapult chair) Nick Winser the challenge of reducing the timescale for building strategic transmission by three years, and ultimately by half.
The Electricity Networks Commissioner, Nick Winser, has set out 18 Recommendations and supported by a detailed companion report by Energy Systems Catapult finds that the delivery time for strategic transmission lines can be reduced to around seven years.
Some of the Key Recommendations are:
Recommendation 1 – The Future System Operator (FSO) should be established quickly and be responsible for producing a Strategic Spatial Energy Plan (SSEP).
Recommendation 2 – The FSO, supported by Ofgem, should urgently assess the scope for new short-term and long-term regional flexibility markets.
Recommendation 6 – National Policy Statements should be updated urgently and regularly thereafter.
Recommendation 8 – A new document Electricity Transmission Design Principles should be created.
Recommendation 9 – Ofgem should urgently conclude the Future Systems and Network Regulation consultation and establish a new regulatory arrangement with the Transmission Operators.
Recommendation 12 – The FSO and TOs should work with the Government to design and implement a focused information campaign on the need for a grid refresh.
Recommendation 13 – A clear and public set of guidelines for Community benefit should be established.
Read the Main Report
Electricity Networks Commissioner report by Nick Winser