National Grid ESO Sets ‘Beyond 2030’ Energy Investment Plan

The £58bn (US$74bn) plan is set to accommodate expected growth in electricity demand alongside an increase in renewable power projects

In a bid to full decarbonise by 2035, National Grid has set forward an investment plan set to provide £58bn (US$74bn) for the electricity grid to meet the growing demand for electricity with sustainability still at its core.

National Grid’s Electricity System operator (ESO) — soon to be the National Energy System Operator — says the investment will allow Britain to exploit the economic potential as a leader in offshore wind by moving the power to where it is needed. 

Called Beyond 2030, the new investment plan will support the need for many more renewable power plants such as wind and solar that need to be connected to the electricity grid to deal with demand for power and need to decarbonise.

“The huge growth in offshore wind, interconnectors and nuclear power will all generate more electricity than the networks are currently able to transport,” a representative from the National Grid said: “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.

“We look forward to working with the System Operator, government and Ofgem on the further development needed to progress.”

What is National Grid ESO?

An entity that operates in the background, ESO is at the heart of the UK’s energy system, running its entire electricity network — ensuring it is stable, reliable and efficient, even during times of high demand. Its core purpose is to make sure there is enough electricity when people need it, and keeps the electricity flowing safely and reliably throughout the UK.

ESO states that although the electricity network has seen upgrades, over the last seven decades only minor improvements have been made, with more of an overhaul long overdue. This is mainly driven by the fact that sectors such as vehicles and heating are increasingly becoming more electricity-dependent, spurring an expected electricity demand increase of 64% by 2035.

The Beyond 2030 report stated that “the current electricity grid is reaching its capacity and is unable to transport much more electricity without reinforcing the network,” prompting an overhaul rather than continuing to make minor tweaks. 

Beyond 2030 — what this means for grid decarbonisation

Fintan Slye, Executive Director of ESO highlighted how Britain’s electricity system is “the backbone of our economy” and it being fit for future challenges is not a want but a need.

“ESO’s Beyond 2030 network design outlines recommendations on the investment needed and how and where to coordinate the build of this new critical national infrastructure,” he said.

Fintan Slye, Executive Director of ESO

“To deliver the clean, secure, decarbonised system set out by government and devolved governments we must take swift, coordinated and lasting action working collaboratively across all parts of the energy sector, government, the regulator and within our communities.”

As part of the plan, 21GW of offshore wind, currently in development off the coast of Scotland, will be connected to the grid in what it calls an ‘efficient and coordinated way’. As a result, 86GW of offshore wind will be available, catapulting Britain to the position of global leader in offshore wind and floating offshore wind farms. The report did not detail how the upgrades should be funded.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), there is currently just 63GW of offshore wind installed globally.

The foundation of the Beyond 2030 plan is comprised of three main areas:

  • Supporting decarbonisation, jobs and economic growth
  • Taking swift and coordinated action
  • Expanding of the offshore grid and adding a new North to South electrical spine

The latter point will allow offshore wind farms in development off the coast of Scotland to have their green energy transported via a new electrical spine — planned to reach from Peterhead to Merseyside — supplying homes and businesses across Scotland and North England with homegrown electricity.

David Sheldrake, Global SVP of Sales360 at energy software firm POWWR said: “The plan for a UK 'electrical spine' to connect renewable energy farms is a crucial step towards a sustainable future for all. Linking offshore wind power to the grid will boost renewable energy capacity, reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and, ultimately, help tackle the scourge of climate change. The move will also enhance energy security, diversify the energy mix and will improve grid resilience. It should even lead to job creation and economic growth, particularly in coastal regions.

“These plans should prove vital for realising the potential of renewable energy and advancing broader energy and environmental goals in the UK.”

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