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Join the queue: £200bn worth of renewable projects on hold

UK climate targets are currently threatened by the National Grid’s lack of capacity, causing £200bn worth of projects to be stuck on hold as they wait to connect to the UK’s electricity system.

The British are renowned for their queuing and the story is no different when it comes to renewable projects, as Britain is suffering with the longest backlog in Europe.

Around 40% of these have a connection wait of at least a year, delaying these high-value investments.

While it’s good news that so many renewable project applications are being made, the demand is too high for the grid, which was originally built when just a few fossil fuel power plants required a connection each year.

Ambitious targets

In addition to achieving net zero by 2050, the UK has also set an ambitious target for 100% of its electricity to be produced without carbon emissions by 2035.

There have been large strides made toward the green energy transition as a Government report revealed that nearly half of the country’s electricity was net zero in 2022.

Much of this has been the result of the hyperdrive for wind and solar power. However, it’s predicted that five times more solar and four times as much wind is needed than is currently produced to achieve this target.

Pressure on the grid

Some projects have been quoted a 10-15 year wait to be connected, far exceeding the 2035 electricity target.

To manage the demand, the National Grid is tightening its criteria, ensuring that only projects with significant potential are able to join the queue.

Substantial restructuring of the grid is also required and permission has been granted from Ofgem for the National Grid to raise an additional £20bn over the next 40 years from household bills, however the impact is expected to be minimal.

Emma Pinchbeck, CEO of Energy UK, has suggested that the grid would need to grow its electricity sector by two to three times its size over the next decade. She states that the system operator is confident that they can absorb the amount of renewables that they’re aiming to put on the system over the next decade.

However, while she believes that it is physically possible, funding for grid infrastructure is highly regulated in the UK and much of this regulation is not currently fit for purpose.

Government action

Renewable energy developers have argued that the Government has been negligent in their vision for modernising the network.

According to David Kipling, chief executive of On-Site Energy, “[The government has] been speaking about climate action for over a decade now, so you would have to assume that they knew what would be required.”

The Government is planning to announce a new action plan to accelerate connections later on in the year.