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Pay UK Households Who Agree to Have Power Lines Nearby

by Paul Williamson
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Homeowners in Britain should be paid “generous” compensation if they agree to have power lines built nearby in order to help speed the transmission of electricity from new generation projects, a government-commissioned report has urged.

The document from the government’s first energy networks commissioner, Nick Winser, calls for new power linesto be built twice as fast to ease the decade-long backlog of renewable energy projects waiting to connect to the grid.

His root-and-branch review proposes 18 measures to help clear the grid backlog after finding that “every part” of the grid upgrade process “must – and can – be dramatically improved”.

These recommendations include offering lump sum payments to those living near new pylons, which it said could reduce widespread opposition to projects, and “streamlining” the planning and regulatory process.

Winser warned ministers that without new cables and substations more green energy projects were likely to be rolled out before they could be connected to the grid.

Currently windfarms and solar arrays face a 10- to 15-year wait to connect to the power networks because grid upgrades cannot keep pace – but these wait times could be halved to about seven years to help Britain meet its green energy targets, according to Winser.

“The implications of being able to build wind generation faster than the associated connections to customers will be serious: very high congestion costs for customers, and clean, cheap domestic energy generation standing idle, potentially for years,” Winser said in a letter to Grant Shapps, the energy secretary.

The queue for a UK grid connection is the longest in Europe and threatens to undermine the government’s target to roll out 50GW of new wind power and 24GW of new nuclear in the coming decades.

The “magnificent achievement” would be “wasted if we cannot get the power to homes and businesses”, Winser said.

The report found that grid upgrade delays could even raise energy bills by billions of pounds if the electricity system operator is forced to pay windfarms to stop generating power when constraints in the network mean that strong supplies of green energy cannot be delivered to areas of higher power demand.

The grid delays have sparked a row within the industry over who bears responsibility for the backlog. Renewable energy developers have been critical of National Grid, which owns most of the UK’s power lines. Meanwhile, the FTSE 100 energy company has called on the regulator, Ofgem, to change the rules to allow greater investment in its networks. Ofgem has called the delays “unacceptable”.

Dan McGrail, the chief executive of the trade association RenewableUK, welcomed the report. He said: “Our electricity network is the single biggest barrier to delivering a zero-carbon power system by 2035.”

Carl Trowell, the president of strategic infrastructure at National Grid, said: “There is no time to waste. Implementing the proposals and progressing the energy transition at pace is the surest route to more affordable bills, greater energy resilience and a more energy independent UK.”

The recommendations include setting up a “future system operator” to undertake a forecast of the grid upgrades required across the country. It also puts forward ideas for better collaboration between the regulator, government and the companies that own Britain’s grids, which include Scottish Power and SSE as well as National Grid.

It also cited the need for “transparent, respectful and efficient” engagement with local communities and people about the impact of new transmission infrastructure such as overhead power lines and substations which will be needed in the future.

“Clear guidance on how communities can comment on the design of projects to reduce their visual impact, as well as ways to enable communities hosting new infrastructure to benefit from doing so, will be important steps forward,” McGrail said.

Source : The Guardian

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