‘Milestone moment’ for electricity grid as new rules mean ‘zombie’ projects can be terminated

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The energy watchdog has introduced rules to speed up the amount of time it takes energy projects to connect to the national grid and begin powering it.

New Ofgem regulation will allow stalled energy schemes to be kicked off the list of generators and storage projects waiting to be connected, freeing up space for ready-to-go projects to provide energy to the grid.

At present, a first come, first served system for connection is in place, whereby a long queue means newer energy schemes are not powering homes and businesses, despite being in a position to do so.

It’s led to a queue of projects with the ability to generate 400 gigawatts of power – the capacity to meet more than Britain’s energy needs – waiting to be hooked up, behind so-called zombie projects.

Some can wait years to be plugged in.

Such of these projects may be “speculative”, Ofgem said, or unviable but have applied for a connection ahead of newer projects that are ready to feed the grid.

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Under the new rules, dates for meeting production targets will be included into connection contracts. If the energy projects don’t meet those dates, they can be removed from the connection waitlist.

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“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,” said Eleanor Warburton, Ofgem’s deputy director for institutions for net zero energy systems management and security.

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Later this month, on 27 November, the Electricity System Operator (ESO) will publish guidance on how the new powers will be used with the first removals likely to happen as early as 2024, Ofgem said.

From then all customers with an existing connection agreement will be given the option of having queue management milestones applied to the existing connection date or they can submit a modified application which will have new queue management dates.

The new rules had already been promised by the National Grid ESO.

“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,” said the chief engineer and head of networks at the ESO, Julian Leslie.

“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.”

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