Electrical Substation Scotland

Report finds renewables expansion requires UK electricity network revamp

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The UK needs to build out its electricity transmission system or risk not taking full advantage of expanding wind and nuclear power, according to a report from the former boss of the National Grid.

Nick Winser, who now provides independent advice to ministers on electricity network issues, said that, while challenging, speeding up the delivery of strategic electricity transmission lines is “vital and achievable”.

Winser also suggests that new power lines could be built in half the time compared to current infrastructure. He has put forward a set of recommendations to reduce timescales for delivering onshore transmission network infrastructure to seven years to help deliver energy security more quickly.

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

The energy security secretary, Grant Shapps, welcomed the report, saying he will consider the recommendations before presenting an action plan later this year.

“The UK is leading the world on renewable energy and decarbonising faster than any other country in the G7,” he said.

“We must ensure we are taking full advantage of our success and getting the increased supply of homegrown, clean energy that we have at our fingertips to people’s homes and businesses for years to come.

“That is why we asked Nick Winser to carry out this review – I welcome his report and am grateful for his work.

“This is another important step as we continue to reform our energy system to drive down bills, grow the economy and ensure tyrants like Putin can never again use energy as a weapon of war.”

The report comes as the government publishes proposals to grant the energy security secretary new powers to direct the Future System Operator (FSO) – a public body that will be tasked with planning a decarbonised energy system.

The powers could be deployed if a company contracting with the FSO is found to threaten the resilience, safety or security of the UK’s energy system, such as through cyber-attacks and supply chain vulnerabilities.

They could include removing or preventing certain suppliers’ involvement or equipment in the energy supply chain, such as by directing FSO not to contract with third-party suppliers to ensure the security of the system.

The minister for networks and nuclear, Andrew Bowie, said: “With renewable energy already making up around 40 per cent of our total electricity supply, the UK has a world-class renewables sector. We are determined to match this with a world-class system for delivering this growing supply to where it is needed.

“We will be considering Nick Winser’s recommendations closely as we work towards achieving an energy system led by renewables, nuclear and other clean, home-grown technologies.”

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