UK looking to speed up renewable power connections

UNITED KINGDOM - The UK government is promising to speed up the connection of renewable power to the national power grid with the launch of a new consultation process that will change how power plants are connected to the grid.

Problems are particularly felt by windfarm developers, which can wait years before being able to transmit power to the grid. The government recognized that currently more than 60 gigawatts (GW) of new generation capacity — about 200 projects — are waiting to be connected to the national grid, including about 17 GW from renewable sources.

The existing system works on a 'first-come, first-served' basis in regards to grid connection, regardless of when the project will start generating energy. This has meant that some windfarms have been given connection dates many years after they plan to start producing electricity. The new consultation is giving energy companies a say on three potential new models. These include:

• Connect and Manage (Socialised): Costs will be shared between all users of the network;

• Connect and Manage (Hybrid): A model that targets some, but not all, of the additional constraint costs on new-entrant power stations;

• Connect and Manage (Shared Cost and Commitment): A model that offers the choice to new and existing power stations to commit to the network (which is helpful to the grid in terms of long-term management of the system) in return for greater certainty regarding charges, or to opt out of a commitment, facing exposure to additional costs.

The proposed scheme is also designed to reassure potential investors in windfarms that projects will be given a connection date that fits in with a project's developmental timeline.

"Access to the electricity grid has been one of the key barriers to the generation of renewable energy in this country," admitted Energy and Climate Secretary Ed Miliband. "We are determined to resolve this issue. That is why we took powers to do so in the Energy Act, and today we are setting out our proposals. We need these new projects to get hooked up to the grid as soon as they are ready — both to help tackle climate change and secure our future energy supplies."

Miliband added, "The government will do whatever is necessary to bring about the transition to a low-carbon economy and to give investors the certainty they need so that new renewable energy generation is built."

Energy regulator Ofgem has already approved interim arrangements to help new power stations connect more quickly. About 1 GW of renewable projects in Scotland have already been offered earlier connection dates. Now, however, the government is hoping to make faster connection a reality by introducing the new system by next June.

The consultation, titled 'Improving Grid Access,' is now open and will close November 17.


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