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UK risks wasting wind farms achievement without new links to grid, report warns

04 Aug 2023 3 minute read
Electricity pylons. Photo Gareth Fuller PA Images

The UK risks wasting a major achievement if it builds massive wind farms and nuclear sites without ensuring there are enough cables to bring the new electricity to homes and businesses, an official report has warned.

It could leave wind turbines and solar panels standing idle, and lead to higher costs for customers across the country.

The report – commissioned by the UK Government and written by a former National Grid boss – said it is “both vital and challenging” to ensure the delivery of new grid connections speeds up.

It takes around 12 to 14 years to get new big transmission lines up and running, around twice the time it takes to put up a large wind farm, the report by Nick Winser said.

This is slowing the transition to clean energy as developers of wind and solar farms are having to wait to have their sites connected to the grid.

The country needs enormous new investment to deliver the clean electricity that will power cars, homes and industries in the future. Wind turbines, solar panels and other solutions have been popping up all over the country.

Yet very few transmission lines have been built over the last 30 years.

Major step

“Delivering 50 gigawatts (GW) of new wind power and 24 GW of new nuclear will be a major step towards decarbonising our economy and providing customers with clean, secure, affordable electricity, but that magnificent achievement will be wasted if we cannot get the power to homes and businesses,” said Mr Winser, the Electricity Networks Commissioner.

“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.

“I believe that we must… reduce the overall timescale to seven years.

“I am confident that this is achievable as long as we streamline the process as proposed in the report; and take a transparent, respectful and efficient approach when engaging with people and communities about the impact.”

The report included a series of recommendations of steps for the Government and regulators to take.

Dan McGrail, chief executive of trade body RenewableUK, said: “Our electricity network is the single biggest barrier to delivering a zero-carbon power system by 2035.

“So we’re pleased that this timely report puts forward a series of constructive measures to speed up the pace at which the UK builds vital new grid infrastructure.

“These recommendations will benefit billpayers across the country by ensuring that we maximise the vast quantities of cheap, clean power we’re generating from renewables, and that we can get it to British homes and businesses more efficiently.”


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Linda Jones
Linda Jones
8 months ago

I doubt the validity of wind farms being the answer to our energy supplies. They only work when the wind blows, they are noisy, detrimental to birds and continuously break down. They are also very polluting during manufacture. To add to the problem the writer is clearly promoting the need for mass pylon installation, another blight on our aesthetics.

Karl
Karl
8 months ago
Reply to  Linda Jones

Read the hate mail. They are not that loud and often are not running as no capacity needs, because not much wind needed to get them going. Wind farms look far better than crap in our air. And in our valleys are often out of sight.

hdavies15
hdavies15
8 months ago
Reply to  Karl

You know the turbines are there just beyond the ridges especially after or during sustained heavy rain and all that water that should have soaked into trees and the original soil and plant life now runs off concrete foundations, access routes and other damaged top layers, now cascades down into your village. Council and Wales gov then turn and blame “someone else” when they should look closer at their own half baked planning and obsession with partnering with big corporate carpetbaggers. So Linda is right to raise the questionable “greenness” of the turbine manufacturing system but it is arguable that… Read more »

Jonathan Dean
Jonathan Dean
8 months ago
Reply to  Karl

Wind farms don’t get put in valleys, they get put on hill tops and ridges where everyone can see them towering over them. This is why the best place is at sea they they are far more efficient, less variable and generate cheaper power

Jonathan Dean
Jonathan Dean
8 months ago
Reply to  Linda Jones

The lack of wind is a total red herring according to the ESO who run the grid

Sioned Huws
Sioned Huws
8 months ago

Decentralising is the way forward. A lot of energy is lost in producing it miles and miles away from where it is mostly needed. Keep it local, keep it cheaper and promote local initiatives which serves better those communities. Renewables is the way forward. No more public money should be invested in nuclear as it is far too late and expensive to make any impact on climate change apart from being dangerous and leaving a waste legacy for thousands of years.

hdavies15
hdavies15
8 months ago
Reply to  Sioned Huws

Had most of these projects been owned or controlled by local communities you would have seen a far more measured approach to their planning and execution.

Jonathan Dean
Jonathan Dean
8 months ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Agree. Rural areas can easily supply themselves from renewables and urban areas can be supplied from offshore

Jonathan Dean
Jonathan Dean
8 months ago
Reply to  Sioned Huws

Urban areas are technically incapable of producing enough from renewables so we have two options – generate in the countryside or generate at sea, all for the benefit of towns and cities. I would choose the sea. Wales can easily generate enough to reach net zero twice over using just the sea so there is no need for anything on land unless someone desperately wants a little turbine in their garden

Jonathan Dean
Jonathan Dean
8 months ago

The Future Energy Scenarios report from the ESO shows in the short term the U.K. will be net importers of power but in the longer term will always be net exporters. However there will always be import/export to balance supply and demand

Jonathan Dean
Jonathan Dean
8 months ago

This new report actually contains a lot of good recommendations. It is not proposing any more or less pylons be built, just that whatever pylons do need building should get approval more efficiently and quickly

Many of the delays are down to a lack of joined up thinking between government departments and agencies

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