Ardent

Plans to speed up electricity connections welcome - but more needs to be done

A leading surveying and consents management practice with offices across the UK has welcomed a new Government plan to speed up connections to the electricity network – but says some of the detail could end up hindering the process. 

The team at Ardent, which has expertise in the transport, renewables, utilities and regeneration sectors and has offices in Leeds, Glasgow Birmingham, London, Warrington and Dublin, has been reacting to the Connections Action Plan. 

The plan aims to cut down the delays for new transmission connections to help speed up the drive towards net zero and was published alongside the Autumn Statement. 

It is an area in which Ardent has particular expertise and its team has been looking at the detail within the report to see if it will achieve its aims. 

And, while it has been broadly welcomed, Nick Dexter, Head of Utilities at Ardent, said other parts of the process would need to be reviewed to cut out delays in connections. 

He said: “We welcome the thinking and the sentiment behind the report. The drive to net zero is being held back by delays of up to five years and it is, therefore, vitally important that the Government recognises this and starts to address it. 

“One of the first aims is to improve the quality of projects applying for transmission connections in order to deter speculative applications and allow for those that really will make a difference. It’s fair to say that there is a huge amount on the register that you could argue is clogging up the system. 

“However, we wouldn’t want this to deter developers who have what appears to be a viable scheme but they don’t necessarily believe it will meet new arbitrary requirements.  

“If, for example, developers need to have land rights to be able to qualify for a connection it could weaken their position with a landowner when in negotiation as they won’t want to lose out on achieving their connection so could, effectively, be held to ransom. 

“Seeing what the requirements actually are is going to be key. 

“Similarly, part of the plan is to reduce projects from the list that are not progressing to free up space and time to move on with those which are ready to go but, again, the detail here is going to be vital. 

“It is sensible to move away from the first come, first served model and try to move forward with projects that are feasible and ready more quickly but understanding what this means will be important as it will be quite a subjective view. It’s important that this plan increases confidence in transmission connection applications rather than having the reverse effect. 

“It’s also crucial that the plan balances out local and regional needs as well as looking at the national picture over what is more strategically important. 

“Ultimately, this plan focuses only on connections and unless there is a general review of major infrastructure delivery then delays will just be pushed to another part of the process either around land rights or consents.  

“So, while we welcome the report and its aims, we still think there is more to be done to achieve the ultimate outcome of generating and transmitting more electricity to support great energy security and speed up the drive to net zero.”