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The UK’s grid challenge and the road to net-zero

3 min read

The UK is lagging behind in renewable power delivery, jeopardising our goal of meeting net-zero by 2050. Mary Glindon MP, chair of the Grid Networks APPG, believes grid investments, innovation, and cross-party consensus are needed to secure a sustainable energy future while also bolstering economic growth.

On our current trajectory, the United Kingdom will not deliver enough renewable power to decarbonise the electricity grid until 2062. The power grid itself will not be able to manage the generation of renewable power until 2084. This is according to an expert report entitled How to Deliver a Decade of Electrification from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

That means falling well short of our legally binding net-zero target of 2050. It also means we will fail to meet the rapidly increasing demand for electricity from electric vehicles, households, and industry.

A lack of a cohesive investment plan means the UK will be less competitive and less productive compared to other leading economies such as the United States, European Union, and China. These powers are already pressing ahead with major infrastructure upgrades.

The transition from fossil fuels to renewables like wind and solar power requires an electricity grid that can efficiently capture, store, and distribute these intermittent energy sources. Failing to plan and deliver massive investment means we won’t reap the full benefits of renewable energy generated in places like Dogger Bank, the world’s largest wind farm in the North Sea. It also means that much needed renewable energy generation projects can’t connect to the grid, including those that have secured planning permission and finance. Many are delayed by years, and in some cases over a decade, putting them at risk.

The Ukraine invasion and soaring energy bills over the last 18 months is a reminder that grid investment is vital for our energy security too. A more resilient grid would mitigate the risks associated with energy supply disruptions through war and weather events. By diversifying energy sources and implementing smart grid technologies, the UK can reduce vulnerability to global energy shocks.

“The UK’s commitment to achieving net-zero is imperative in the fight against climate change. Grid infrastructure is at the forefront of this effort”

Investing in grid infrastructure will stimulate economic growth. Development and management of new grid systems will create more jobs and drive innovation in the energy sector, with some estimates valuing UK green business at a trillion pounds by 2030. A more efficient grid will encourage energy intensive business such as manufacturing and IT to invest in the UK, knowing that they can access stable, sustainable, and affordable energy.

Improved infrastructure also empowers consumers by enabling them to participate in the energy market actively. Through technologies like smart meters and demand response systems, consumers can better manage their energy usage, reduce costs, and even sell surplus energy back to the grid.

The UK’s commitment to achieving net-zero is imperative in the fight against climate change. Grid infrastructure is at the forefront of this effort, as it enables the scaling up of renewable energy production and the electrification of various sectors, such as transportation and heating.

The new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Grid Networks offers MPs and peers the opportunity to learn more about the future of the grid and to get to grips with the scale of the task ahead. Encouraging policymakers, generators, developers and regulators around the table to discuss solutions and to develop a solid cross-party consensus will be vital to securing the future of energy infrastructure and prosperity in the UK.


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