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New Energy World magazine logo
New Energy World magazine logo
ISSN 2753-7757 (Online)

Blueprint to decarbonise the UK’s electricity grid published


View from centre of base of plyon, looking skywards, with criss-cross structure silhouetted against sunset Photo: Shutterstock
A new report from the UK electricity system operator ESO is calling for £58bn of investment in order to decarbonise the nation’s electricity grid by 2035

Photo: Shutterstock

The UK electricity system operator ESO has published a report proposing £58bn of grid investment to move offshore wind power ‘to where it is needed’ and meet the nation’s growing demand for electricity by 2035.

The report outlines a plan to connect a further 21 GW of offshore wind in development off the coast of Scotland to the grid in ‘an efficient and coordinated way’. According to ESO: ‘In total there will be over 30 GW of offshore wind in Scottish waters compared to 6 GW of peak electricity demand in Scotland in 2035. The plan moves that power to where it can be used – both around Scotland and across Britain.’


ESO reports that its plan enables ‘a fully decarbonised electricity system by 2035, in line with the Sixth Carbon Budget’. It also believes the plan could create and sustain over 20,000 jobs annually, with 90% of the benefits occurring outside London and the South East, according to independent research.


However, the report stresses the need for ‘swift and coordinated action across the energy sector, government, the regulator and communities’ to achieve this.


The report also recommends an expansion of the offshore grid and a new north-to-south electrical spine, potentially from Peterhead, Aberdeenshire to Merseyside, to carry green energy from offshore wind farms in development off the coast of Scotland to homes and businesses across Scotland and northern England. It notes, however, that this is ‘an early-stage option which will require further consideration and consultation’.


ESO also recommended further ‘offshore bootstraps’ along the east coast of Britain. ‘By 2035, the country will have one of the most expansive and coordinated offshore grids in the world, with three times more undersea cabling than onshore,’ it says.



Commenting on the report, a National Grid spokesperson said: ‘The huge growth in offshore wind, interconnectors and nuclear power will all generate more electricity than the networks are currently able to transport. The Electricity System Operator’s Beyond 2030 report recognises the need for networks to be delivered at pace and is an important step in unlocking a more affordable and resilient decarbonised electricity system in the UK.’


RenewableUK’s Director of Future Electricity Systems Barnaby Wharton added: ‘Reinforcing and expanding our electricity grid is long overdue. It’s essential that we don’t delay any longer and get on with the job, to ensure that we can get the vast quantities of clean power which we’re generating from offshore wind to British homes and businesses as efficiently as possible.'


Dr Nina Skorupska, CEO of the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA), also welcomed the report. She said: ‘After all the recent UK government statements declaring the ambition for net zero power by 2035, it is a relief to see the publication of this very important plan.’ She added: ‘Those dependent on electricity system development know we also need to see the delivery of the broader Strategic Spatial Energy Plan (SSEP; covering gas, hydrogen and potential CO2 networks), regional plans and full connections reform. All of which requires the new National Energy System Operator to be officially up and running this summer, ensuring real change is delivered as soon as possible. The trick now is to convince everyone to play their part.’


Meanwhile, Tom Faulkner, Head of Assets & Infrastructure and Networks at Cornwall Insight, warned that: ‘A blend of optimism and realism is necessary when considering our renewable energy ambitions. The 2035 forecasts for wind and solar capacity outlined in the report are notably ambitious compared to our current estimates. Achieving these targets will demand substantial investment, not only in grid infrastructure but also in the renewable generation assets themselves.'


Grid support

In other news, development consent has been granted for a new £400mn green electricity project to upgrade the high-voltage power network in North Yorkshire, to allow more renewable and low-carbon energy to move onto the electricity grid and into homes and businesses, both in Yorkshire and further afield. Construction is expected to complete in 2028.


Yorkshire GREEN is one of seven onshore grid upgrade projects proposed by National Grid across England and Wales required to be consented through a development consent order. It is also part of the Accelerated Strategic Transmission Investment (ASTI) framework established by energy regulator OFGEM. ASTI aims to accelerate the project funding process by up to two years, targeting projects critical to meeting the government’s target of 50 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030.


Another project to be accelerated under ASTI is the Eastern Green Link 1 (EGL1) high voltage subsea cable being developed by National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET) and SP Transmission, part of SP Energy Networks.



Meanwhile, Kelvatek and Northern Powergrid have launched a project called GridLINK that aims to ‘make the network more reliable by automatically isolating faulting parts of the network’. The project will establish multiple automatic switching points along low-voltage power cables linking customers to the nearest substation.


GridLINK is funded by network users and consumers under the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF), an OFGEM programme managed in partnership with Innovate UK.


Round three of SIF was recently announced, with some £5.8mn made available to fund feasibility studies for 44 projects focused on system planning, novel technical, process and market approaches, system flexibility and power-to-gas enabling work.