National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET) is vital to delivering the transition to a clean, fair, and affordable energy future.  

Our ambition is to ensure the effective and efficient connection of low-carbon technologies at pace to deliver net zero, whilst driving value for end consumers.

Over recent years, we have witnessed significant and rapid change in the energy landscape, including the type and volume of developments wanting to connect to the transmission network.

These changes in the industry have brought challenges, notably a hugely oversubscribed pipeline of customers wanting to connect to the network, resulting in increasing timescales being offered for connections.

There is a collaborative effort across industry to address the connections challenge, of which we have been supporting the ESO in the delivery of their 5-point plan to accelerate connections and development of a new connections process. The ESO's latest process recommendations have now been published here. We have also been working closely with the ENA as part of their 3-point plan to improve connections for distribution customers.

Read more about what we are working on here from our Director of Customer Connections 

Ofgem have approved new Queue Management policy arrangements which will be applied to all new and existing connections projects. Find out more here.

Understanding the connections challenge

We believe the current connections challenge is made up of two areas:

a) The existing connections arrangements

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The Market (directed by policy)

An open market for generation and demand which drives developers to apply only to secure their place in the pipeline as in many cases the connection timescales cause long lead times.

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The Contract (governed by the process)

The connection agreement is captured within a contract which currently lacks required, consistent obligations for developers to demonstrate progress. This therefore prevents capacity being re-allocated accordingly, which would help to avoid viable connections being delayed by non-progressing projects.

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The Physical Works (the products provided to facilitate a connection)

A physical connection ‘socket’ to connect a customer (e.g., a substation bay) and potentially increasing the size or number of ‘wires’ (overhead lines or cables) may be needed to support additional required capacity for specific projects. This results in inefficient allocation of works as they are linked to the requirements of contracted customers, reserving capacity for projects, and potentially blocking access for others, rather than focusing on strategic physical works where they are needed across the network.

 

b) The current connections landscape

Arguably, the biggest problem currently faced by all stakeholders in the connections landscape is the size of the contracted background of connections.

In England and Wales, the connections pipeline currently stands (as of November 2023) at 500GW, comprising over 700 contractual agreements, and is continuing to grow at an accelerated rate. With this representing significantly more than we will need to connect under any credible future energy needs scenario and to support wider interconnector needs, it causes a great deal of uncertainty. The below graph indicates the increase in new applications in the past few years.

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Increase in connections over three years

For example, this volume of applications triggers the need for more than 50 new substations to be built, which is unnecessary for current or future network needs and a huge investment of resource- causing further delays to future projects.

What is reform of the connections process driving?

We believe successful reform must deliver:

  • A connections process that has an effective level of entry requirements and contractual obligations. This will effectively progress credible and ready to connect developments to in timescales that align to their needs.
  • The separation of network design from the connections process, enabling strategic decisions about where to create capacity and provide for customer connections, rather than designing the network to support specific connections.

Change is required at pace to ensure long-term security of supply, energy resilience and affordability, whilst driving economic growth, creating a jobs and skills revolution, and establishing a more energy independent UK.

 

To realise this ambition, we have identified 5 pillars for the changes we want to see

Some of these are initiatives led by NGET, and others are spearheaded by the ESO through their reform of the connections process.

1. De-couple network design from customer applications and invest ahead of need

NGET has identified the need to build the connection ‘sockets’ first, which will create capacity hubs and a long-term aim of providing customers with understanding of planned capacity ahead of their applications to inform and strengthen their investment decisions.

2. Create a ‘plug & play’ connections product

NGET is leading on developing a new standardised modular connection ‘socket’ for customers, suitable for many types of project, enabling faster and more flexible connections.

3. Create a need for developers to demonstrate viability before entering the connections process

The ESO is working on ensuring projects meet certain key requirements before being granted a place in the connections pipeline, e.g., securing land rights, should enable resources, time, investment, and capacity to be allocated to projects which are most likely to connect. The latest updates on the ESO recommendations for a new connections process have been published here

4. Shift towards a ‘connect or move’ framework- where customers are required to progress to connect or move to allow others to connect.

The Queue Management code modification as led by the ESO will ensure milestones are applied to projects and if milestones are missed, reallocate capacity to progressing projects. Find out more about Queue Management here.

5. Enable immediate benefit through effective implementation and transition

To realise the benefits of a new connections regime and address the well documented issues with grid connections, NGET advocates for urgent action to address the pipeline of contracted connections to either:

  1. Reduce the pipeline of contracted connections to an accurate reflection of what will connect.
  2. Apply the elements of the new arrangements to the contracted background to ensure equal treatment of all future connections where possible.

Click here to read the executive summary to our response on the ESO reform consultation

Currently ongoing projects to address the need for immediate connections reform

ESO five point plan

The ESO are leading on 5 immediate term reforms to alleviate some of the current connection pressures. Click the link to find out more.

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ENA technical limits

NGET is working alongside the ENA and the wider industry to reform the connections process via the distribution networks. Click the link to find out more.

Battery and energy storage policy

The ESO have released a new BESS policy. NGET and the ESO are working closely to consider any customers currently in the pipeline under this new policy. Click the link to find out more.

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Queue Management

National Grid ESO has proposed a change to industry rules to introduce ‘queue management’. This is supported by NGET and is now being considered by Ofgem. Click the link to find out more.