Ofgem, Britain's energy regulator, is challenging local electricity grid owners to follow Western Power Distribution’s lead by squeezing more capacity out of their grids to connect renewables.
There is huge growth in renewable generation in Great Britain. By December 2015 8.6GW of solar capacity had been installed 15 years ahead of forecasts.* Official projections made in 2012 suggested that around 6.5GW of solar panel capacity would be connected by 2030.
In some regions including the South West, there is little spare network capacity meaning costs and timescales for connection can be extremely high. So Ofgem is calling on electricity distribution network operators (DNOs) to speed up connections, firstly by finding new ways to link more generators to the existing network.
Western Power Distribution (WPD) has a queue of 7.6GW of generators waiting to connect of which around 4.8 GW are solar panel schemes. WPD is reconfiguring part of its grid so that some of the generators in the queue can get quicker connections. In addition WPD is offering to connect some generators but only if they agree to cut their output on days of the year when there is the highest demand from other generators to use the grid. They will not receive compensation payments for this.
Ofgem chief executive Dermot Nolan said: “We want DNOs to take creative approaches to speeding up renewable connections. They can do this firstly by making best use of their existing grids, as WPD has done. We are also calling on DNOs to enable earlier investment in new capacity where necessary using funding in their price controls. This means that they won’t be adding extra costs onto your bill.”
* DECC’s latest statistics on solar panel installation up to December 2015
For more information see DECC's solar photovoltaic statistics.
1. In some cases DNOs must find ways of building new capacity further in advance to speed up connections. Ofgem has told DNOs to trial schemes where this can be done by only using funding in their price controls. Ofgem is currently assessing the trial schemes DNOs have proposed and will provide updates throughout the year on what it can do to support these schemes. Find more information on the DNO price controls in our infographic: How Ofgem's network price control proposals (RIIO-ED1) will affect you.
2. Ofgem is also asking generators and stakeholders for feedback on whether DNOs are being proactive enough on tackling the queue for connections. A consultation on getting an electricity connection when the network is constrained has been published today. Responses to the consultation will inform Ofgem on whether it should apply financial penalties on the DNOs for failing to meet the needs of their connection customers. This is part of the range of invectives Ofgem set the DNOs in their price controls.