Call for action plan to increase electricity grid capacity

From left, Karl Farrow, chief executive, and Gary Williams, chief operations officer, of CeraPhi, and Third Energy director Steve Mason, at the KM8 well near Kirby Misperton. Picture: LDRS.

The director of a pioneering renewable energy scheme is urging England’s largest council by area to help unblock a decade-long delay facing green power schemes aiming to produce electricity for the grid by pressing the Government, electricity network firms and the energy watchdog to take action.

North Yorkshire councillor Steve Mason, who is also behind a project to turn Third Energy’s highly controversial Kirby Misperton fracking site into a geothermal energy extraction facility, has lodged a motion for the unitary authority to produce a roadmap to increase electricity grid generation and import capacity across the county.

The Liberal Democrat member for Amotherby and Ampleforth’s call follows Northern Powergrid responding to mounting frustration and claims from elected community leaders that much of North Yorkshire’s electricity grid is “not fit for purpose” and impacting on net zero ambitions in the area, such as the creation of public electric vehicle charging points.

The firm, responsible for the electricity distribution network for the North East and Yorkshire regions, has told councillors customers, such as new housing, can connect without delay as much of the network is only 50 per cent utilised, to allow quicker restoration of supplies in the event of a fault.

Paul Glendinning, the firm’s policy director, stated: “The network investment to enable connection of new electric vehicle chargers and heat pumps need not hold up project progress as long as we are informed at an early stage.

“Through early engagement we have been able to provide a number of local authorities and housing associations in our region with the data and guidance to be able to effectively plan large scale low carbon technology installation programmes.

“By helping them identify those that can connect now and which properties/locations need to wait for network reinforcement works, we have been helping customers to connect when they want, avoid delays in their programmes and thus avoid the risk of losing government funding awards that often have strict spending deadlines.”

Northern Powergrid has also pointed toward delays in connecting new projects to the electricity transmission network run by National Grid, such improvements to the York Osbaldwick electricity junction, which would enable North Yorkshire’s excess electricity to be moved to the South-East, where it is needed.

Such work would then free up capacity on North Yorkshire’s network for renewable energy schemes to connect to it.

Coun Mason is calling for the council to request further information, action plans and a roadmap for delivery to increase electricity grid generation and import capacity across North Yorkshire from Northern Powergrid, National Grid and Ofgem.

A full meeting of the authority on Wednesday is being asked to also consider writing to ministers to register “our serious concerns on the issue and request information on government support for immediate action to resolve the issue”.

Ahead of the meeting, Coun Mason said alongside local grid issues, the blockage on renewable energy generation in North Yorkshire is being exacerbated by a lack of urgency and National Grid being insufficient.

He said: “Renewable energy companies want to connect projects that fit in with the council’s net zero plans and are given the go-ahead by Northern Powergrid, but the National Grid is not capable of taking the energy.

“I know companies that are having to wait until 2034 – how are we going to hit our net zero target? We need to understand as a council from all the stakeholders what the plan is because it is very confused.”