Connecting Renewables to the Grid-Still Too Slow

Sluggish administration is to blame for the slow connection of renewable energy.
Published: Fri 27 Mar 2015

There has been a massive increase in renewables generation in the UK from a transmission perspective over the last five years, says Julian Leslie, head of electricity customer service, National Grid, who spoke at Low Carbon Scotland, but grid connection could be more efficient,

Renewables investments must be made at the right time

England and Wales have seen major growth in offshore wind developments. Currently, 12GW of renewable generation is connected to the transmission grid- of that, 4GW of offshore wind is connected.

Leslie says that there is “a lot more” that the transmission operator doesn’t see. Leslie estimates that there is approximately 9GW which is generated from people’s rooftop solar panels and wind turbines on farms.

According to Leslie, a further 14-15GW of transmission connected generation is needed. “This far outstrips the annual build rate but in terms of the grid contracts that national grid holds, we have 31GW-more than twice than what we need to connect. There is a great deal of ambition out there. Lots of developers have contracts to connect to the grid system over the next 5 years but the biggest challenge is to ensure that investments in the transmission network are made at the right time to ensure that the connection of renewables is carried out.”

Admin stands in the way of connecting renewables

Steve Oldroyd, MD of business services firm, DJO-Partnership, who also spoke at Low Carbon Scotland, says that there are still a number of barriers when it comes to connecting renewable energy to the grid.

“While there is progress, it is happening much slower than what it should. We need a ‘top-down assessment’ of how the energy sector works. Organizations can be big barriers when it comes to getting renewables onto the system. For instance, paperwork simply doesn’t get done quickly enough which can slow the whole process. There are other barriers like financials but we have to do more to speed the process.”

Oldroyd says that there are some very large schemes about to go live but despite the appropriate permissions granted, if a district network operator does not give the green flag, the connections simply have to be put on hold. He adds that politics can be another barrier to renewables development and grid connection. “Incentives play a major part in getting people interested in renewables. These include feed-in tariffs and renewable heat incentives for instance. However, there is always the risk of a new government withdrawing or reducing the incentive.”

He points to the feed-in tariff of 48 pence per unit three to four years ago which has now dropped considerably to 11 pence a unit.

“Incentives are meant to open up the industry in a big way but when incentives are reduced or withdrawn, development has the potential of being throttled back severely.”