A report for the UK government and published on 4 August by Electricity Networks Commissioner Nick Winser sets out plans to bolster the country’s energy security and ensure the UK is taking full advantage of its established position in the development and deployment of renewables. Energy Security secretary Grant Shapps has welcomed the report and will consider the recommendations before presenting an action plan intended to take advantage of the effects of an investment in renewable energy generation that has grown by 500% 2010.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had a devastating effect on global energy markets and accelerated the need for more home-grown energy sources, including renewables, nuclear and North Sea oil and gas.

Today’s report suggests that new power lines can be built in half the expected time and confirms that, while challenging, speeding up the delivery of strategic electricity transmission lines is ‘vital and achievable’. A set of recommendations has been put forward to reduce current timescales for delivering onshore transmission network infrastructure to 7 years to help deliver energy security and net zero more quickly. The government says it will respond to these proposals later this year.

Nick Winser sets out an ambitious, highly detailed programme to remove barriers to planning and delivering transmission network and plugging renewable generation into the grid. Rebecca Barnett, UK regulator Ofgem’s director of networks said: “We need bold reforms to accelerate the delivery of electricity transmission infrastructure needed to end the reliance on fossil fuels for power by 2035. This builds on Ofgem’s work to establish strategic national and regional planning; unlock and accelerate infrastructure investment; and end delays in grid connections to homes, businesses and public services.”

Carl Trowell, president, UK Strategic Infrastructure at National Grid, said:

“This report from the Electricity Networks Commissioner is both timely and welcome, following our recent launch of The Great Grid Upgrade, the largest overhaul of the electricity transmission grid in generations, with significant new infrastructure planned across England and Wales.”

Commenting on the report RenewableUK’s chief executive Dan McGrail said:“Our electricity network is the single biggest barrier to delivering a zero-carbon power system by 2035. So we’re pleased that this timely report puts forward a series of constructive measures to speed up the pace at which the UK builds vital new grid infrastructure.”

New security proposals

The report comes as the government publishes new proposals to grant the secretary of state for Energy Security powers to direct the Future System Operator (FSO) – the new public body that will be given the task of planning a decarbonised energy system – to take action to address risks to national security.

The new powers could be deployed if a company, contracting with the FSO, is found to threaten the resilience, safety or security of the UK’s energy system, such as through cyber-attacks or supply chain vulnerabilities.

These actions could include removing or preventing certain suppliers’ involvement or equipment in our energy supply chain, such as by directing FSO to disallow with third party suppliers to ensure the security of the system.