The UK needs to have a ‘major rethink’ of its energy network, according to a group of energy experts assembled by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).

The group’s Electricity Networks: Handling a Shock to the System report warns that the UK needs to start taking a holistic view of the power grid to ensure the demands of decarbonising the energy mix are met.

The Power Network Joint Vision (PNJV) group’s report states that the decarbonisation of the energy network is “probably the biggest peace-time change to national infrastructure Great Britain will have seen”. The report recommends the implementation of a ‘system architect’ role to take a whole system view of the grid, ensuring that the power network adapts appropriately to future challenges.    

PNJV chair, IET fellow Dr Simon Harrison, explained: “Britain’s electricity sector is grappling with the triple challenges of decarbonisation, maintaining security of supply and affordability to customers. The impact of future changes has potentially profound impacts on networks and on the electricity system as a whole.

“These changes are potentially disruptive to electricity supply security and the cost-effective operation of the grid, and these pressures will become progressively more severe.

“We have an opportunity to act in ways which reduce cost and create worldwide opportunity for innovation and UK leadership. The scale and complexity of the challenges ahead is new, and potentially even greater than when the national grid was first developed in the 1930s. Fresh thinking is needed.”

Grid constraints remain one of the most frequent challenges facing solar developers, so much so that the Solar Trade Association (STA) recently published a Grid Barriers to Solar Power briefing which works as a step-by-step guide on the key issues and actions needed to address the “serious problems with grid access” facing solar developers.

In addition, the National Grid warned the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) that integrating more than 10GW of solar electricity onto the UK power grid could result in significant technical challenges.