Network reform needed to help UK achieve net-zero targets

The UK’s drive towards net-zero carbon emissions is being hampered by an out-of-date and inflexible network, renewable energy developers and industry figures have said.

They argue that the energy grid was designed for fossil fuel generation and fails to embrace the planned rollout of green power.

Small-scale renewable energy projects are faced with high and sometimes prohibitive costs of connecting to the grid in certain parts of the country, due to the withdrawal of certain government subsidies.

Speaking to The Independent, Philip Dunne of the Environmental Audit Committee called for a reform to planning legislation to enable local renewable green projects to get off the ground and help in the drive towards net-zero emissions.

“Grid connection costs and access charges can be too high for small groups and do not account for the wider decarbonisation benefits – including education and social support – that the projects bring to their communities compared to commercial renewable projects,” said Mr Dunne.

Out of touch

Commercial energy developers also believe that the current system is out of sync with the needs of the UK whose growth in renewable energy output lags behind a number of other European countries.

They want to make it cheaper to connect green power to the grid which would make green energy tariffs more competitive.

Many wind and solar developers are tied to contracts that allow network operators to turn their supply down when there is excess energy being generated.

Typically this occurs when it is sunny and windy – conditions that are favourable from both a power generation and financial perspective.

Also, investors in new energy supply are sometimes disincentivised by the fact they have to pay companies that operate the network for upgrading local infrastructure because the existing capacity is taken up by fossil fuel suppliers.

Campaigners want older agreements, which typically date back to the 1990s when gas and coal-fire generation held sway, to be renegotiated and for more flexible arrangements around connectivity which allow for extra supply to be added more cheaply and faster.

Flexible connections make more efficient use of the existing network, meaning developers do not have to pay as much for infrastructure upgrades.