Action needed to accelerate deployment of electricity transmission infrastructure
Ardent has welcomed a new report which aims to accelerate the deployment of electricity transmission infrastructure but believes that the government needs to act now to have any chance of meeting its already ambitious targets.
Ardent has praised the independent report led by the Electricity Networks Commissioner Nick Winser which outlines 18 recommendations to government which will accelerate the construction of new power lines to connect renewable energy projects to the electricity grid.
It comes as the UK Government has committed to a fully decarbonised electricity system by 2035, subject to security of supply considerations, and to Net Zero by 2050.
Nearer term objectives include ambitions to deploy up to 50GW of offshore wind and to progress up to eight new nuclear reactors by 2030.
But while the recommendations are a positive step in the right direction, Ardent’s Head of Utilities Nick Dexter says that the government needs to begin implementing the proposals immediately.
He said: “The government’s plan to decarbonise the electricity network and ensure that Britain’s homes and businesses are powered by affordable, clean and secure electricity by 2035 is certainly ambitious, and building the infrastructure to transport this clean energy will likely be one of their biggest stumbling blocks.
“It is therefore clear that the government needs to act now and begin implementing the proposals immediately, while ensuring that they do not get stuck in legislation which would ultimately draw out the process further.
“There are a number of positives to take from the report, including developing a Strategic Spatial Energy Plan (SSEP) to bridge the gap between Government policy and Network Development Plans which are created by transmission owners to identify the need for new infrastructure projects.
“Currently Network Development Plans don’t always align with government policy, but this recommendation should help remove some of the challenges faced and provide a more holistic approach.
“Another positive recommendation is providing benefits to the communities who are directly affected by new infrastructure in their area.
“One of the most fundamental recommendations is speeding up the planning process and delivery of these projects.
“Currently electricity transmission infrastructure projects are taking seven plus years just to get through the planning process before building even begins, but to hit targets they need to be fully completed in just seven years, so there needs to be a step-change.
“There needs to be buy in from all departments, including the government, Ofgem and the planning inspectorate who are going to be processing these applications and making recommendations.
“A final recommendation of note is around land and giving transmission owners more statutory powers to access land to conduct work such as surveys, similar to powers other utilities have such as water. This would make a big difference in the time it takes to access land for surveys.
“Whether the government can deliver on their targets is yet to be seen. Not only does the process need accelerating, there also needs to be the equipment, materials and skilled people to construct these projects within an incredibly short period of time.”