The Energy Grid Must Be Upgraded for the UK

Net zero targets demand that the UK energy grid be upgraded to allow for colossal transformation on the quality of life for the UK.

The energy grid has not received upgrades on the scale that is needed since the 1960s.

The Building an Electricity Network for Net Zero analysis by Regen indicates the radical benefits that the UK will receive as a result.

Millions of homes will be able to install heat pumps and EV chargers, and new investment and business growth opportunities will be accessible.

The Regen report also evaluates existing efforts from the UK Government, Ofgem and network operators, to increase access to the grid, and the grid’s performance capacity.

It also lays out realistic goals that would ensure the grid is capable of delivering its crucial role in net zero.

In 2022, 17% of the budget for grid investment was cut – a high risk step, according to the report.

It means that Ofgem is now in a time crunch to assist networks in finding budget so that they can receive the investment before the cracks in the wall appear, and consumers start to experience widespread connection problems.

The report also makes clear that the investments needed from network companies will need to be substantial. This will allow for the grid to transition from fossil generation to renewables – which is low-marginal cost in comparison.

Its analysis argues that the UK Government and Ofgem must address the current grid investment issue, so that funds are provided proactively, and not as a band aid. It also calls for the Energy System Operator to immediately prioritise the upgrades, so that the renewable energy projects are not ineffective because they don’t have connections.

These are barriers that are detrimental to net zero and must be given appropriate consideration by the UK government in the planning framework, says the report.  Failure to do so will prevent upgrades to the infrastructure to be delivered on time.

David Cowdrey, director of external affairs at MCS Charitable Foundation, said: “This report set out to respond to the question: can the grid cope with a massive shift towards electrifying heat and transport.

“The answer is very clearly, with the right investment, yes.

“Not only is upgrading the grid essential to preparing the country for a carbon-free energy system, but investing now will bring huge benefits in the form of cheap, clean energy.

“The Government, regulator, and network operators must now urgently bring forward investment and reform planning policy to facilitate grid development.”

The report which was commissioned by net zero MCS Charitable Foundation, is incredibly timely as it provides a solution based response to current discourse on the lack of action. Concerns predominantly centre around the impact of failing to act – with the timescale for connecting new renewable energy projects to the grid, currently over 15 years.

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