Ofgem challenges DNOs to open more grid capacity for renewables

  • National Grid.

    Western Power Distribution has a queue of generators totalling 7.6GW. Image: The Smallpiece Trust.

Energy regulator Ofgem has challenged local grid owners and DNOs to identify additional capacity and open more for renewables, and threatened those that fail to do so with financial penalties.

Ofgem said the significant growth of renewables in the country, especially solar deployment, had beaten all expectations and led to significant constraints on local grid networks.

It claimed that solar in particular was 15 years ahead of schedule, citing Department of Energy and Climate Change deployment projections of 8.6GW of PV by December 2015.

Much of that deployment has been in southern regions of the UK and in particular the South West. Western Power Distribution has claimed that it currently has a queue of generators waiting to connect totalling 7.6GW in capacity, 4.8GW of which is solar.

As a result Western Power has had to reconfigure elements of its grid network in order to connect those in the queue quicker. The DNO is also negotiating with generators in order to facilitate connections if they agree to limit output on days when other generators place demands on the grid.

It’s not the first time Western Power has been linked with innovative management of grid capacity issues. Last year Ben Godfrey, innovation and low carbon networks engineer at the DNO, told Solar Power Portal of how it had began to revisit stagnant projects with the threat of removing grid connection agreements, freeing up capacity that had otherwise been promised.

It has also signed a contract with Renewable Energy Systems (RES) to deliver a storage system co-located with a large-scale solar project which is to be used to commercialise services to the national grid.

Ofgem chief executive Dermot Nolan said he wanted more DNO’s to “take creative approaches” to helping renewable generators connect to the grid and make the most of existing infrastructure.

“We are also calling on DNOs to enable earlier investment in new capacity where necessary using funding in their price controls. This means that they won’t be adding extra costs onto your bill,” he said.

The regulator has today launched a consultation requesting feedback from generators and other stakeholders on whether or not DNOs are being proactive enough when dealing with connection queues.

Responses to the consultation, which closes on 29 April 2016, could lead to Ofgem issuing financial penalties to DNOs that fail in their duties.

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