Parliamentary Committees and Public Enquiries
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Grid connections and storage issues must be addressed to decarbonise the economy, MPs find

Slow grid connections and a lack of clear plans for energy storage have to be fixed to enable electrification of the UK energy system or risk net zero goals not being met, a committee of MPs has found.

In a report published on 24th May, the Environmental Audit Committee concludes that many planned renewable energy projects are being hampered by persistent problems accessing the electricity grid. These include slow connections, limited capacity, inappropriate planning regulations and market uncertainty.

Demand to access the grid is high; the current queue to connect contains more than twice the amount of generation required to meet the Government’s target of decarbonising the energy system by 2035. But projects being unable to access the grid could make that target harder to achieve.

Ofgem and the Electricity System Operator (ESO) have attempted to speed up the system by requiring projects to meet key ‘milestones’ like securing planning permission. Businesses that fail to meet such milestones could lose their place. However, the Committee’s report finds that early evidence suggests these changes have not yet reduced the length of the connection queue.

In response, the Committee recommends that the Government and Ofgem actively monitor and streamline initiatives designed to deliver grid connections faster. In particular, it recommends that Ofgem review its milestone queue reforms, with a focus on advancing demonstrably ready projects to the front of the queue.

The report also finds that the planning system risks being a “bottleneck” to the rollout of energy infrastructure, as local authorities often lack the resources or in-house knowledge to accelerate clean energy projects. It recommends the Government develop a plan to ensure local authorities have the personnel and expertise they need to reach planning decisions quickly while engaging with local communities.

Elsewhere in the report, MPs highlight that achieving net zero goals, while maintaining energy security and avoiding energy shortages, will likely require a significant level of low-carbon storage.

But it is not yet clear that the scale of energy storage facilities which are likely to be required, or the actions necessary to secure long-term storage, is well understood. The energy sector needs clear strategic direction to secure the private investment required and delivery of grid-scale energy storage, which will otherwise be delayed.

The Committee recommends the Government address these barriers to long-term storage as a matter of urgency, through either investing directly in infrastructure or reforming policy mechanisms such as the Capacity Market. It calls on the Government to publish, by 2025 at the latest, an energy storage strategy setting out the short and long-term energy storage needed to deliver the UK’s net zero goals.

Chair's comments

Environmental Audit Committee Chair, Philip Dunne MP, said: 

“The Government’s commitment to decarbonising Great Britain’s electricity grid fully by 2035 – increasing capacity by 250% in little over a decade – is one of the most ambitious undertakings by any peacetime Government. We have seen no evidence that it is achievable any earlier.

“It is beyond question that this project, around which there is a broad consensus, will require an unprecedented level of planning and coordination across Government, as well as significant private investment.

“There is no lack of demand to take part in the clean energy revolution; UK businesses are queuing around the block to secure access to the grid. As green technology improves and becomes easier to access, this will only increase.

“The announcement by the National Grid of a £30bn investment in UK energy network infrastructure is a very welcome sign of the willingness across the sector to deliver a decarbonised grid.

“But achieving that goal will require sustained investment and unrelenting effort across all aspects of the energy system. 

“Immediately after the General Election, the Government must address these concerns as a priority, and set out clearly how it will balance achieving net zero goals with delivery of a secure energy supply.”

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