Queue management changes will clear ‘zombie’ projects from transmission connections queue

New rules to speed up electricity grid connections and force stalled or speculative developers out of the queue have been announced. The change will sweep away GB’s strict ‘first-come, first-served’ system, which allows ‘zombie’ projects that are delayed or unlikely to be realised to ‘block’ later projects from accessing scarce connection capacity. The antiquated system has led to a long queue of energy projects which if realised would add 400GW to the country’s energy capacity – far more than is needed to power the entire energy system.
From 27 November the rule change will give National Grid ESO, the GB system operator, the power to introduce strict milestones into connection agreements at each project stage and terminate projects if they do not hit them. This will terminate stalled projects that are blocking the queue for high-voltage transmission lines and fast-track ready-to-go generation and storage.
The ESO will publish guidance on 27 November on how it will use its powers, with first terminations likely to happen as early as 2024.
Ofgem chief executive Jonathan Brearley said in May that urgent reform to the connections system was vital to unlock new investment and hit national targets – 50GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030 and 70GW from solar by 2035.
Later this month Ofgem will join with the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) to publish a further connections action plan and the government’s response to recommendations to halve the time to build transmission infrastructure by then Electricity Networks Commissioner, Nick Winser. In the meantime NG ESO will implement a five-point plan to create capacity and accelerate connection dates for transmission projects.
Eleanor Warburton, Ofgem’s Deputy Director for Institutions for Net Zero Energy Systems Management and Security said: “This is a big step towards phasing out the first-come first-served queuing system. We want new power on the grid as quickly as possible, so if you’re ready, you can connect sooner. If you’re not ready and are blocking the progress of others, you’ll be removed – you can’t sit on the queue with no consequences.”
Julian Leslie, Chief Engineer and Head of Networks at the ESO said: “We warmly welcome these new rules approved by Ofgem enabling us to proactively terminate zombie projects in the connections queue. This is a milestone moment in the ESO’s efforts to lead the transformation of the grid connections process, making it fit for purpose for a modern network that is rapidly evolving and decarbonising.
“The ESO will be uncompromising in our approach to driving out projects that cannot meet their connection date, paving the way for more viable projects that have a real chance of plugging into the grid, energising the UK economy.”
David Boyer, Director of Electricity Systems at Energy Networks Association, said: “Today’s announcement from Ofgem is a significant milestone in accelerating and improving grid connections. While there’s plenty of work still to do, this is welcome news and we will continue to work with Ofgem and the government, as well as across our membership, to make progress on this and other major areas of reform.”