Building a robust network
How can the UK make sure that it has the right energy infrastructure in place for the future? Phil Sheppard, National Grid’s Head of Network Strategy, explains why well-timed investment is critical to security of supply.
National Grid’s plans for future network development are by necessity long-term and influenced by many factors, from predicted demand to changes in the generation mix. There’s a lot of complexity but the essence of our task is straightforward – to make sure that the UK network has the capacity the market requires at the right time.
In an industry where technology is evolving so quickly, one of the challenges is to achieve the correct balance and timing of investment. Investing too early could lead to costly under-used capacity. Delaying projects risks not having enough capacity, where there are inefficient constraints on the system and we limit access to the network. The costs of either investing too early or limiting generation because of constraints ultimately end up in consumer’s bills. Our role is to work with the industry to minimise these costs to consumers.
So how do we develop our plans with the appropriate rigour and make sure that we get the timing right?
Our overarching approach is described in the National Grid Network Development Policy, which uses as its starting point the data from the Future Energy Scenarios that we publish and update each year (see further articles below).
The policy sets out the network capacity required, the options for network development, examines proposed investments and takes into account factors such as boundary capabilities – how we ensure we can transport energy to different parts of the country.
Planning for the future
In November and December respectively, National Grid will publish on our website the updated Electricity and Gas Ten Year Statements, which illustrate the future development of the National Electricity Transmission System (NETS) and the gas National Transmission System (NTS) under a range of plausible scenarios. The statements cover aspects such as supply and demand, system operation, proposed investments and also provide a technology route map.
We are committed to gathering as many views as possible to shape these documents and, with that in mind, we have expanded the consultation process this year so that the content reflects fully the input from external stakeholders, as well as the National Grid perspective.
A changing generation mix
Looking ahead, although we don’t project significant changes in energy demand between now and 2025, the type of generation is altering and there is a shift in where it is being installed. The increase in planned renewable energy projects poses a specific challenge because these projects are generally located on the farthest points of the network, a long way from where demand is at its peak. We need to reinforce the network so that this new generation capacity can flow effectively from remote locations.
There is no shortage of future generation potential, with a total of 256 renewable and non-renewable generation projects contracted, delivering an estimated 101GW of additional generation to the transmission system. We have to plan for all 101GW to connect, although not all will be required to meet demand. Under our Gone Green scenario, we would need just half of these projects to connect to meet demand. In our Slow Progression, that figure falls to around one third.
The ongoing progress of Electricity Market Reform (EMR) will be very significant in determining which of these projects actually result in connections to the network.
Major projects in the pipeline
There are some very significant developments already under way or at the planning and consultation stage. One example is the Western Link, a £1 billion project being developed by National Grid and Scottish Power to bring renewable energy from Scotland to homes and businesses in England and Wales.
This involves the construction of a high voltage direct current cable capable of transmitting 2,200MW of power – enough to meet the needs of around two million people. Cable installation began in spring this year and the project is expected to be completed in 2016.
Elsewhere, between September and the end of October, we undertook formal public consultation on the Hinkley Point C Connection project ahead of our submission to the Planning Inspectorate in early 2014. The project involves the construction of a new electricity connection from Bridgwater in Somerset to Seabank near Avonmouth.
This major project and others around the country are part of our plans to make sure that the UK network is capable of meeting future electricity supply and demand.
One other common denominator underpins all of these projects, and that is our constant search for innovation in technology that will allow us to deliver in a smarter, quicker and cheaper way with minimum impact on consumers.
Read more about this topic – and about National Grid’s work on assessing the impact of the changing energy mix on consumers and the future grid operation – in future Connecting articles.
To read more
How will the UK fare in the race to meet its environmental targets by 2020? Gary Dolphin examines the hurdles to be overcome. Click here to read more.
How much energy will the UK need in the future to keep our homes warm and our workplaces functioning? Marcus Stewart, National Grid Energy Demand Manager, examines the scenarios and some of the factors influencing the UK’s demand for energy. Click here to read more.
The publication of National Grid’s 2013 UK Future Energy Scenarios (FES) paints a picture of how the UK’s energy landscape might look in 2035 and as far out as 2050. But how are these scenarios developed, and why is stakeholder involvement in their creation so important? National Grid’s Richard Smith unpicks some of the complexity. Click here to read more.
How might the energy world look when Prince George comes to the throne? National Grid’s Alice Etheridge speculates on what the future energy landscape may look like at the start of the reign of the future king. Click here to read more.
The 2013 Electricity Ten Year Statement sets out how Great Britain’s National Electricity Transmission System (NETS) could evolve between now and 2033 under a range of plausible energy scenarios. It also provides information to assist customers in identifying opportunities to connect to the NETS. Click here to view the statement.