The boss of National Grid has called for an overhaul of UK planning rules in order to speed up the shift towards cleaner energy.
John Pettigrew, chief executive of the FTSE 100 networks owner, said the transition away from fossil fuels was at a “pivotal” moment and reform was needed to remove barriers to new projects such as wind turbines, solar plants and batteries.
“The scale of the transformation that’s needed is something that’s not been seen for generations,” he added.
“And if we get it right, the prize is huge, both in terms of security supply, but also lower costs for energy, and also the creation of jobs.”
National Grid has set out five areas it believes need to be reformed to get projects off the ground more quickly, including planning, regulation and benefits for communities living nearby.
“On planning, the current consenting process for major energy projects needs to be shortened,” Pettigrew said. “On regulation, we need to have the ability to do investment in anticipation of need.”
National Grid and other network owners are under pressure over years-long waits often faced by new projects wanting to connect to the electricity grid amid concerns this is slowing the shift towards cleaner energy.
The UK has a legally binding target to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, while the government wants to decarbonise electricity supplies by 2035.
Ofgem, the energy regulator, this week highlighted estimates that a quarter of applications for grid connections approved over the past 12 months were offered dates after 2030.
Jonathan Brearley, Ofgem’s chief executive, said the current regime to connect projects was not “fit for purpose” and promised a review. It comes on top of work being done by Nick Winser, the government’s electricity network commissioner, to cut the time it takes to lay new electricity cables.
National Grid on Thursday reported a 15 per cent rise in full-year underlying operating profits to £4.6bn, slightly ahead of analysts’ expectations, helped by a strong performance in its US business.
The company owns electricity and gas networks in the US and the UK and supplies energy to households in the US.
In January it sold a 60 per cent stake in the UK’s gas transmission network to a consortium led by Australian bank Macquarie, which has an option to buy the remaining 40 per cent by the end of July.
The sale was part of a greater focus on electricity networks for National Grid in the UK, given expectations over the rise of electric cars, heat pumps and wind turbines.
During 2022 it invested £7.7bn, which National Grid said was 8 per cent higher than the previous year, and a record.
Of that, about £2.6bn went into its UK business and £4.1bn into the US, with most of the remainder going to its National Grid Ventures arm.