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As part of the Autumn Financial Statement on 22 November, the Chancellor announced the Connections Action Plan from DESNZ and Ofgem to speed up connections to the grid. Connections are going to move from a “first come, first served” approach. The Government expects this will reduce wait time from 5 years to a vision of 6 months, from as early as now.

The Plan acknowledges that ensuring customers can connect where and when they need is crucial to achieving net zero. The plan states “If business is deterred from expanding or investing in new projects requiring electricity network connections, this negatively impacts on economic growth and job creation.”

ESO’s current progression process uses ‘gates’ and ‘windows’ to qualify projects that are advanced enough and determine connection position in given time windows. We have concerns with this approach, as it doesn’t apply an economic test to the projects.

The plan acknowledges that the current connection process is not fit for purpose and sets out a series of immediate and early actions in 2024. The new plan will:
–        Raise entry requirements to deter speculative connection applications e.g. that planning consent and landlord consent is in place
–        Remove stalled projects which are “banking” capacity, which is common in BESS projects
–        Change criteria for existing capacity to allow firm/non-firm connections
–        Better allocate available capacity to projects that are ready, and that “strategically important projects receive the strongest possible support”
–        Sharpen obligations and incentives on the ESO and network companies

In our view, too much priority is currently given to connecting new grid-scale renewable generation, grid services applications and BESS, and not enough to economic growth. We believe the plan misses the opportunity to prioritise industrial connections, and so protect jobs and net zero plans for industry.
  
We largely welcome the new plan. It’s a step in the right direction, and we hope that the vision of short, facilitated connections becomes a reality.