Energy Bill Form

March 25, 2024

National Grid UK: £58bn Upgrade Needed to Hit Net Zero Target

The National Grid has claimed that £58 billion worth of upgrades are needed for the British energy grid if the UK hopes to meet its Net Zero targets.

The multi-billion pound investment will involve a restructuring aimed at prioritising renewable energy sources, such as wind farms, while enhancing the reliability and sustainability of the network amidst soaring demand.

What is the Net Zero Target?

Initially, the UK committed to reducing greenhouse emissions by 80% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels, as part of the 2008 Climate Act. However, in 2019, the UK strengthened this commitment by aiming to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to Net Zero by 2050 – this is known as the UK Net Zero target.

In 2021, then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng confirmed plans to decarbonise the UK’s electricity system by 2035 to help boost the country’s Net Zero ambitions.

However, the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO), the organisation that runs the network, claims that to meet this climate change mitigation milestone, a multi-billion-pound investment is needed.

Why Are Upgrades Needed?

The ESO claims that the current grid, built around coal-powered systems, is no longer fit to meet future needs. British electricity demand is expected to rise by 64% by 2035 and could double by 2050. The upgrades will improve the reliability, reach, and effectiveness of the UK’s electricity network.

The ESO says one of the biggest problems the network faces is the inability to easily store large volumes of electricity to manage big fluctuations in electricity output. Claiming:

"Investment in renewable energy generation has exceeded investment in transmission capacity over the past decade, resulting in bottlenecks on the electricity network."

This means that if the grid can’t transport the energy to somewhere it can be used, it is being wasted. For example, Scottish wind farms currently generate more electricity than Scotland can use or export to England, Wales and Northern Irland.

What Upgrades Are Needed?

The move to renewable energy sources means the grid has to change the way it is shaped. Previously, the grid generated its energy from massive coal-fired plants built close to coal mines; the power was then moved to cities or industrial areas. In the future, the grid will have to draw its power from several renewable energy sites spread across the county.

Under the proposed green energy plan, far more offshore wind power would be pumped into the energy mix that powers homes and businesses, meaning the network will have to reach places where it has previously only had a small capacity. The upgrades will include new power cables to transport the energy from these sites.

Another area of investment includes allowing new sources of power, such as solar farms, to be connected to the grid and transported across the energy network. Other upgrades include between 5,000 and 6,000 new electricity pylons and 1,000 miles of new overhead lines, additional substations, and other infrastructure spread across the countryside.

What are the Benefits of These Upgrades?

According to the report, these upgrades will enable the UK to reach its Net Zero target, securing a greener and more sustainable future for all. The move towards renewable energy also reduces carbon emissions and, in turn, leads to a smaller carbon footprint.

Additionally, the ESO believes around 20,000 jobs will be created, nine in ten of which will be outside of London and the South East.

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