Expanding energy transmission infrastructure ‘vital’ to meet net zero
Improving the UK’s energy grid infrastructure and speeding up building is “vital” if net zero targets at to be reached, a new report has said.
The UK Government’s electricity networks commissioner, Nick Winser, has called for the urgent creation of a Strategic Spatial Energy Plan to help deliver required changes.
He warned the benefits of developing new low-carbon energy generation, such as offshore wind, will be “wasted” if the grid is not improved.
He said: “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.”
Winser warned a lack of engineering skills in the UK could “haunt” the process, though, and called for a government-led review to address the problem.
He also suggested homeowners living near new pylons and other infrastructure could receive compensation.
And he recommended alignment between the consent process used in England and Scotland for energy infrastructure. That process was overhauled in England in 2008, but in Scotland the 1989 Electricity Act still applies.
Winser said: “These reforms are vital. The very significant amount of wind generation in Scotland needs substantially better transmission infrastructure to be developed quickly.
“Furthermore, alignment between the processes in Scotland and England and Wales will assist the significant task of reinforcing the system across the Scottish border.”
He also backed the removal of the power to trigger public local inquiries from planning authorities in Scotland, in favour of a system in which only Scottish ministers could trigger them.
UK energy secretary Grant Shapps welcomed the report, adding: “We recognise the fundamental change needed and have committed to publishing an action plan this year in response to your recommendations.
“We will give your recommendations full consideration in the action plan but I can be clear now that the direction of the package is broadly in line with the approach being taken by government.”