National Grid told to hurry up as solar projects face 15 year waiting times
National Grid must speed up waiting times for new energy projects or risk the UK failing to meet its ambitious solar power generation targets, the UK’s leading solar industry body has warned.
Solar Energy UK told City A.M. that many projects have been told that they have a 10-15 year wait to get a connection.
The amount of time required to secure grid connections was causing a bottleneck for future growth plans.
A spokesperson said: “Many larger projects, whether solar farms or mounted on warehouse rooftops, are unable to connect to the grid and waiting times for upgrades can stretch long into the 2030s.”
Similar concerns have been raised in the offshore and onshore wind industry.
It also raised concerns over the lack of capacity in the electricity grid with the government aiming for a five-fold boost in solar power from 14GW to 70GW by 2035, despite only 15GW of capacity being available.
“Securing investment in reinforcing the UK’s electricity networks is priority number one for the solar industry,” the spokesperson added.
City A.M. understands an industry task force to boost expansion could be announced in the coming weeks to help deal with industry issues.
In the last four years, the number of projects applying to connect to the UK power system has quadrupled, and this year the number is expected to rise even further.
The total pipeline of contracted capacity across England and Wales stands at 176GW, which compares with 65GW connected across the country today.
National Grid told City A.M. 60 per cent of the projects in the pipeline to connect have secured connection dates within 12 months of their requested date.
It also confirmed it is bound by the terms of its licence to manage connection requests on a ‘first come, first served’ basis, limiting its ability to bring forward projects that are ready to proceed.
A spokesperson for National Grid said: “We’re committed to connecting projects to the grid as fast as possible. A majority of projects in the pipeline have connection dates within 12 months of their requested date, and we’re working with the electricity system operator, Ofgem and wider industry to introduce new ways to speed up the process for others.”
To speed up connections to the transmission network, National Grid is offering a one-off amnesty for projects that want to exit the queue, and is aiming to make its queue more rigorous.
There have been positive developments for new larger scale projects, with the construction beginning on the country’s biggest solar farm Project Fortress.
This is the largest domestic solar firm under construction, being built at Cleve Hill, Kent, across 900 acres of countryside.
It was granted development consent in May 2020 and was the first solar project to be approved as a nationally significant infrastructure project.
The project is set to be completed and connected to the National Grid early next year.
Once completed, it will offer enough renewable power each year to meet the energy needs of about 100,000 UK homes.
The project has been backed by Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners and supported by the government’s contracts for difference (CFD) scheme.
This involves a 15-year deal in which Quinbrook will be paid a fixed price for the electricity generated, with revenues adjusted for inflation and the cost paid by consumers through their energy bills.
Solar Energy UK welcomed the development.
Gemma Grimes, director of policy and delivery at Solar Energy UK ,said: “The start of its construction marks another step forward for decarbonising the electricity system and achieving cheaper bills for consumers, especially considering that a number of other installations of comparable scale are also in the pipeline. The lessons learned in its development will no doubt filter through the industry as a whole.”