A year of progress - reflecting on 2021

Chris Bennett, Interim President reflects on a year of progress for National Grid Electricity Transmission.

The festive period is often a time for many to pause and reflect on the year that’s been and to think about the year ahead. Looking back at 2021, there are so many things that I, and everyone at National Grid Electricity Transmission are proud of.

Our RIIO-T1 price control ended successfully and RIIO-T2 started and we made significant progress on many of our key workstreams including connecting customers to the transmission system (often new types of customer and some for the first time), expanding the network to ensure it’s ready to accommodate the increased levels of generation required for net zero and maintaining our assets – continuing to deliver first class reliability.

I’ve tried to pull out some key highlights below but that’s very difficult. Teams right across the organisation have helped accelerate progress towards our targets and the UK’s overall net zero goal, all at the same time as delivering a safe and reliable network, something that was highlighted by significant efforts through the recent Storm Arwen.

  • We built the world’s first T-pylon, part of our Hinkley Connection project which is connecting six million homes and businesses to low-carbon energy. T-pylons are the first new design for a pylon in Great Britain in nearly 100 years and are around a third shorter than a design with a smaller ground footprint. When complete 116 new T-pylons will be constructed along a 57km route in Somerset and add to our suite of approaches to mitigate the impact of electricity infrastructure on the landscape and environment.

  • Our Smart Wires project unlocked extra capacity on the transmission system, creating enough extra capacity for renewable energy to power over 1.3 million homes. Smart Wires uses new technology at substations in the North of England to unlock extra capacity in existing circuits, allowing greater volumes of renewable power to be efficiently transferred to customers.

  • The London Power Tunnels 2 project launched four Tunnel Boring Machines (TBM) – Edith, Caroline, Grace and Christine this year. Each machine marked a significant milestone for the project, to help construct 32.5km of tunnels deep below the streets of South London between Wimbledon and Crayford. These works are vital for the future of London’s electricity supply, keeping the lights on well into the future.

  • Our world first collaboration to replace greenhouse gas Sulphur Hexafluoride (SF6) in existing with a greener alternative went live.  In partnership with Hitachi Energy the pilot project at Richborough Substation in Kent is the first SFreplacement product for installed gas-insulated switchgear (GIS) and forms part of National Grid’s ambition to reduce its SF6emissions by 50% by 2030 and remove it entirely by 2050.


  • We delivered a new connection to help power the UK’s largest public electric vehicle charging hub. Our first ever tertiary connection (a new way for projects to connect to our high voltage network) went live in Oxford, connecting Pivot Power’s battery to our Cowley Substation. The energy storage system will allow greater use of renewable power on the grid and also deliver electricity to 38 fast to ultra-rapid chargers at the Redbridge Park and Ride site.

  • We connected the world’s largest offshore wind farm to the transmission system. Our Killingholme substation in Lincolnshire has been upgraded to connect the Hornsea Phase 2 offshore windfarm which will generate 1.3GW of green energy from 165 8MW wind turbines, enough to supply 1.4 million homes. It will become the largest windfarm in the world when operational in 2022.

  • 2021 has also seen continued support for the communities in which we operate, partnering with charity organisations and encouraging our employees to support social, economic and environmental development. For example, this year, 100,994 children at 402 different schools in the south west have benefited from the Hinkley Connection Project Education Fund, where teachers are awarded grants to purchase much needed STEM equipment. This includes 21,418 children from disadvantaged backgrounds and 48,950 girls.  

Finally, I know that with COVID-19 still very much a part of our lives that Christmas may be different again for many of us. Thank you to everyone who will be on standby or working to keep our operations running over the holiday period. 2021 has been an exciting year and it’s clear 2022 will be equally so as we connect more and more customers and make tangible progress on delivering net zero.