UK grid operator streamlines 10 GW of battery storage


National Grid is speeding up the connection of about 10 GW of battery energy storage projects to the transmission network in England and Wales. The company, which runs Britain’s energy systems, said that 19 projects will be offered new connection dates averaging four years earlier than their current agreement.

The new approach removes the need for non-essential engineering works prior to connecting storage and is part of ongoing collaborative industry efforts, together with energy regulator Ofgem and government, to speed up and reform connections.

“We’re committed to speeding up connections and creating a ‘fit for the future’ process for plugging projects into the grid,” says Alice Delahunty, president of National Grid Electricity Transmission.

A further tranche of clean energy projects – primarily batteries and hybrids (batteries co-located with wind or solar) – will be offered accelerated transmission connections as part of another phase anticipated in the new year, which could bring forward another 10 GW, National Grid said on Monday.

The new approach to transmission storage connections – a flagship policy in the Electricity System Operator’s (ESO) five-point plan to speed up connections – comes as National Grid ET undertakes an extensive review of projects in the connections pipeline in England and Wales to identify which can come forward based on new planning assumptions agreed with the ESO.

Traditionally, National Grid carries out network reinforcements before a project plugs in – sometimes adding years to a connection – based on the assumption that batteries could charge at peak times and export when generation is high, exacerbating system peaks and constraints.

Following detailed technical analysis by electricity transmission engineers, National Grid will now offer selected battery projects a transmission connection before network reinforcements are made, on the agreement that the ESO can adjust the battery’s behavior in certain operating conditions to reduce system impact.

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ESO released its five-point plan in May with the goal to acclerate connections for 70% of projects due to connect after 2026 by two to 10 years.

“This will speed up connections for up to 95 GW of energy storage projects in the pipeline to ensure system security, they may be instructed to reduce their output, however, only on very rare occasions,” ESO said.

Meanwhile, National Grid is also accelerating connection of low carbon technologies at distribution level. In September, it announced an additional 10 GW of unlocked solar, wind and battery storage capacity on its distribution network in the Midlands, South West of England and South Wales, bringing forward some ‘shovel ready’ schemes by up to five years.

National Grid has already been in contact with more than 200 projects interested in fast tracking their distribution connection dates in the first wave of the capacity release, with 16 expressing an interest in connecting in the next 12 months and another 180 looking to connect within two to five years.

A second expression of interest is being rolled out to the next group of customers, coupled with plans to replace the ‘first come, first served’ distribution connections process with a more dynamic ‘first ready, first connected’ approach.

“We’re delighted that so many customers have already expressed an interest in taking advantage of this additional capacity to accelerate the connection dates for their low carbon technologies,” says Cordi O’Hara, president of National Grid Electricity Distribution. “But we’re not stopping there. Our second expression of interest will extend the offer to even more customers who will be able to benefit from our more agile approach to connections, enabling the UK to install the renewable generation needed to decarbonize the electricity system by 2035.”

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