John Forster: It has been a good news week for renewable energy – well sort of
Following National Grid’s announcement of the largest grid overhaul in generations, Forster Group chair John Forster shares his own commentary on the news.
Last week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reported strong headwinds in favour of investment in renewable energy technologies across the globe, stating that for every dollar invested in fossil fuels, about $1.7 is being channelled into clean energy. It highlighted solar energy as the ‘star performer’ in the shift towards renewable power, stating that the amount invested in solar (this year $380 billion) is set to overtake the amount of money flowing into oil production.
All good news, but not that surprising given that consumers now have a better understanding that carbon-based fuels need to be phased out faster and that our increasingly electric energy future needs to come from smart, affordable, renewable sources.
The other promising piece of news is that National Grid has just announced the largest grid overhaul in generations – the Great Grid Upgrade. In the energy and constructions sectors, we’ve been calling for urgent modernisation of electricity grid capacity and connectivity for years, so whilst this new programme is certainly welcome, the programme can be characterised, I suspect, as a bit of a catch-up to get to where we should have been by now.
Until now National Grid has been slow to invest, plan and develop the electricity transmission and connectivity we need to meet the increasing growth in demand of renewable energy projects: In some cases, the current queueing system means that renewable technology projects are stuck in gridlock for up to 15 years.
Initially focusing on nine onshore projects across England and Wales, the Great Grid Upgrade, which will represent £4.5bn worth of network construction by 2030, is seeking partnerships to deliver the programme. Under the scheme, the National Grid is aiming to secure two design and consenting service partners and four to six construction partners to help build new overhead lines and substations.
This latest Grid initiative however, with its £4.5bn emphasis on moving future off-shore wind energy from where it’s generated to where it’s needed, misses a fundamental reality. With energy costs and the Net Zero challenges increasingly an everyday reality for consumers, in Scotland, we need the Scottish Government to keep up the pressure for a more ambitious and focussed programme of grid modernisation. Only through an efficient and effective electricity network can we satisfy the increasing demand for more affordable solar energy and storage, which represents the optimum solution to generate the clean affordable energy needed to power our homes and businesses.
- John Forster is chairman of roofing and integrated solar provider Forster Group