The Solar Trade Association (STA) has published a Grid Barriers to Solar Power briefing designed as a step-by-step guide on the key issues and actions needed to address the “serious problems with grid access” facing solar developers.
According to the STA, the day-to-day reality facing utility-scale solar developers in the UK is that grid constraints are routinely undermining potential projects. One member of the STA claims that it has signed land up for 1,200MW of solar deployment since 2010. However, due primarily to grid constraints 818MW had to be aborted.
The current network has been designed to facilitate passive electricity distribution from large centralised power stations. The STA believes that as the UK moves to low-carbon generation, the need for Distributed Network Operators (DNOs) to invest in a more active business model becomes imperative. Although members of Energy Networks Association (ENA), Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) and Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) task forces on the issue, the STA believes that “networks must now race to catch up with solar deployments”.
In order to do this, the STA suggests a number of ‘next steps’ for network stakeholders. From a policy perspective, the association has called on the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to develop and enforce a ‘strategic approach to socialising the costs of reinforcing the grid’. The STA believes that this would help encourage distributed generation and help address the issue of prohibitively expensive connection fees.
The STA has also published a number of recommendations for DNOs, including the need for them to charge reasonable costs to developers for assessment and design work at the application stage. The trade association has also called on DNOs to develop a system that enables developers to identify others competing for capacity so they can seek to share costs.
Commenting on the need for the briefing, Leonie Greene head of external affairs for STA said: “Some DNOs are working hard to deliver an unprecedented number of new generation connections. Others have not yet geared up.
“Much of the UK is now grid constrained for utility scale PV. The DNOs are constrained by Ofgem’s rules & DECC's carbon plan scenarios. The whole thing needs a serious review if solar is going to meet the aspirations set out in DECC's solar strategy.”
The association also notes that the severe restriction placed on site selection due to grid constraints risks undermining its efforts to promote best practice in the development of solar farms. The briefing concludes: “The STA believes it is in the UK's strategic national interest to upgrade grids to routinely incorporate modern technology”.
The STA’s full briefing can be viewed here.