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United Kingdom

Getting wind on the wires

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A series of interlinked regulatory changes to the way electricity transmission is managed in Scotland by network operators and the market regulator is Scottish Renewables' recipe for connecting thousands of megawatts of new renewables. Much of the network infrastructure is nearing the end of its useful life, says the company. Now is the time to change to a system for more diverse and decentralised power generation.

Scottish Renewables outlines its suggestions in Making Connections, a ten point plan for overcoming the barriers and delays to linking up to the grids in Scotland. The most pressing problem is the queue for grid connection. Some 12.3 GW of potential renewables capacity, comprising 138 mostly wind projects, have connection offers and are waiting to link into the network. According to grid operator National Grid, some 3 GW is in areas with sufficient grid capacity, so should be able to proceed reasonably quickly. But the remaining 9.3 GW is awaiting grid upgrades or new lines to be built. Some projects have been told they will have a ten year wait.

Scottish Renewables recommends a "connect then manage" approach. Where possible, renewable projects with consent that are ready to proceed should be connected to the system before the upgrades are in place, with National Grid managing the network -- and at times limiting generation -- until new capacity is available. National Grid would share the risks of this different way of operating the system with generators through a new method of charging and "constrained connection" offers.

Among its recommendations, the report calls for more predictable and transparent transmission charges that avoid penalising renewable generators and changes to connection and management standards. Looking at the longer term potential for tens of gigawatts of renewable capacity on the islands and in the waters around Scotland, the report recommends an evaluation of sub-sea cabling options to connect to markets in England and Europe.

Many of the recommendations require changes to the licence rules of the grid operator and energy market regulator, Ofgem. The two bodies are out of touch with current government policy and European thinking, says Scottish Renewables. Ofgem's remit has to be changed, it continues, so that carbon reduction is given equal priority to protection of consumers.

"Both National Grid and Ofgem have proved responsive to the need for change," says the company's James Ormiston. They have recognised that renewable energy with its typically small generating stations in geographically remote areas is a paradigm shift from the conventional, centralised power generation model.

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