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National Grid to accelerate connection of 10GW of UK battery storage

November 7, 2023

National Grid has confirmed it will be accelerating the connection of up to 20GW of clean energy projects – including 19 battery storage assets –  to its electricity transmission and distribution networks in England and Wales.

The 19 battery energy storage projects – with a total capacity of around 10GW – will be offered dates to plug in averaging four years earlier than their current agreement. The decision is based on a “new approach which removes the need for non-essential engineering works prior to connecting storage”, a National Grid statement said.

The new policy is part of National Grid’s connections reform initiative targeting transmission capacity, spearheaded by the ESO [electricity system operator] – which owns the contractual relationship with connecting projects – and actioned jointly with National Grid Electricity Transmission (ET), the part of the business which designs and builds the transmission infrastructure needed in England and Wales to plug projects in.

The National Grid recently announced that 10GW of grid capacity on its distribution network in the Midlands, South West of England and South Wales would be released to accelerate the connection of “scores of low carbon technology projects, bringing forward some ‘shovel ready’ schemes by up to five years” – the projects included solar farms, onshore wind, and battery storage projects.

National Grid said it had already been in contact with more than 200 projects interested in fast tracking their distribution connection dates in the first wave of the capacity release, with 16 expressing an interest in connecting in the next 12 months and another 180 looking to connect within two to five years.

The accelerated 20GW equates to the “capacity of six Hinkley Point C nuclear power stations and follows months of work and engagement with industry, Ofgem and government to find innovative solutions that will make plugging in clean energy projects faster and more flexible”, the National Grid statement said.

The new approach to transmission storage connections – a key policy in the ESO’s five-point plan to speed up connections – comes as National Grid ET undertakes an extensive review of projects in the connections pipeline in England and Wales to identify which can come forward based on new planning assumptions agreed with the ESO.

Traditionally National Grid carries out network reinforcements before a project plugs in – sometimes adding years to a connection – based on the assumption that batteries could charge at peak times and export when generation is high, “exacerbating system peaks and constraints”, National Grid said. Following detailed technical analysis by electricity transmission engineers, National Grid will now offer selected battery projects a transmission connection before network reinforcements are made, on the agreement that the ESO can adjust the battery’s behaviour in certain operating conditions to reduce system impact.

A further tranche of clean energy projects – primarily batteries and hybrids (batteries co-located with wind or solar) – will be offered accelerated transmission connections as part of another phase anticipated in the new year, which could bring forward another 10GW. ‍

Alice Delahunty, president of National Grid Electricity Transmission, said: “We’re committed to speeding up connections and creating a ‘fit for the future’ process for plugging projects into the grid. Bringing these battery projects forward is one of a range of actions that our electricity transmission business is delivering alongside the system operator and wider industry to unlock clean energy capacity in England and Wales.

“We’re really encouraged by the recognition these early joint steps by our industry are receiving. They’re paving the way for the more fundamental connections reform that we’re collectively working with government and the regulator to deliver to keep Britain on track for a secure, affordable and net zero energy system.”

Cordi O’Hara, president of National Grid Electricity Distribution, said: “We’re delighted that so many customers have already expressed an interest in taking advantage of this additional capacity to accelerate the connection dates for their low carbon technologies.

“But we’re not stopping there. Our second expression of interest will extend the offer to even more customers who will be able to benefit from our more agile approach to connections, enabling the UK to install the renewable generation needed to decarbonise the electricity system by 2035.”