Letter: Boost grid capacity by building local markets

George Hammond and Stephen Morris write that west London housing developers are finding it impossible to connect new developments of over 25 units due to a lack of local grid capacity. Connection queues are stretching to over a decade (Report, July 28) and it was thought that the requirement for new housing developments to include zero carbon technologies, such as electric heating and car charging stations, was exacerbating this situation.

In fact, a capacity crunch like this has been long-expected by those of us working in the energy sector and west London is an extreme example of what the future could be like if we don’t change our relationship with the grid.

We do not expect to have enough capacity on the roads for everyone to drive at once. This would tarmac half the country. Similarly, there isn’t enough grid capacity for everyone to consume power all at once. Fortunately, we don’t need it. Grid congestion will remain one of the key issues as we progress towards net zero. However, the same assets that are seen to be increasing congestion (electrified heat and transport and even data centers) also have the flexibility to offer some capacity back to the grid: at the right time and the right place — for the right price. In this way they become part of the solution to this problem.

But they are only able to contribute this flexible capacity if we reform our electricity markets to deliver dynamic, locational trading of network capacity.

For example, housing developers could invest some of the money that they would otherwise spend on securing network capacity on solar panels, batteries and energy asset control systems. This would enable new developments to connect faster, use the grid while it was available and contribute flexibility services (or even excess renewable energy) back to it at times of shortages. Payments for these services need to allow them to recoup the additional spend on clean, flexible energy assets.

Building these local markets for network capacity will be essential for places like west London. We are then in a position where developers of new, fully electrified homes can give back to the grid rather than experiencing it as a block for construction in certain areas. This approach not only saves costs on network reinforcement costs for all energy bill payers, it also gets us to net zero faster.

Jo-Jo Hubbard
Chief Executive, Electron
London EC2, UK

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