Property development in England is under threat as electricity capacity approaches limits

Property development in England is under threat as electricity capacity approaches limits

New housing development in London and the South East of England is at risk as power grids are close to capacity and upgrades have stalled, experts say, despite the UK government planning a increased demand for electricity almost ten years ago.

Electricity demand has fallen in recent years as homes have become more efficient, but is expected to increase as drivers adopt electric vehicles and homeowners install heat pumps, placing additional demands on local networks.

Three west London boroughs have suspended development because there is no capacity available for new connections to the electricity grid until 2035, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.

Experts warned on Friday that the problem could spread as national efforts to achieve net-zero carbon emissions increase electricity consumption unless grids are quickly upgraded to withstand additional demand.

“The truth is that the global electrical system is creaking a bit,” said Guy Newey, a former energy adviser to two Conservative business secretaries and now boss of Energy Systems Catapult, an independent research centre.

Warning that the power issues were likely without upgrades, he added: ‘If we are serious about net zero targets we need to build ahead of needs otherwise you will continue to have stories like West London .”

In Hillingdon, Ealing and Hounslow the network was strained much faster than expected as a series of data centres, which can consume as much power as thousands of homes, were connected.

According to the Energy Networks Association, which represents network operators, the volume of new demand for connections from data centers in the past two years alone has equaled the demand for electricity across the region.

It made west London unique, said a senior employee of a distribution network operator, adding that although development elsewhere was “not an issue today. . . it is fair to say that this is a bit of a red flag.

Local grids in affluent areas are most at risk because demand for new electric vehicles and heat pumps is highest there, according to Adam Bell, head of policy at consultancy Stonehaven and former head of energy strategy at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

“Everyone knows this has been happening for a very long time, but there hasn’t been the political will to do anything without absolute certainty that any costs imposed will be justified,” he said.

The Ministry of Energy and Climate Change, now attached to the Directorate of Enterprises, published a report in 2013 which warned of “the impact on the electricity network of a large number of electric heat pumps” within the framework decarbonization of the heating system.

But nine years later, experts say the grid is still unprepared for the large-scale electrification that should enable decarbonization.

Distribution network operators, who own and operate the power lines needed to deliver electricity from the grid to homes, are responsible for upgrading infrastructure.

But upgrades require approval from energy regulator Ofgem – whose role is to protect consumers from excessive costs – and are only approved when there is demonstrable new demand.

It is difficult to forecast this demand, in part because the adoption of electric vehicles and heat pumps is likely to vary widely across the country, existing demand management is being refined, and because the department commercial is delaying a decision on the role of hydrogen in households. heating until 2026. This decision will in turn affect the demand for heat pumps.

The system of gradually increasing distribution capacity to meet demand has always worked, said the senior employee of a network operator. “But in an environment of exponential growth, we have to rethink,” he added.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “We are in regular contact with the independent regulator Ofgem to ensure electricity grid companies have the funding they need to meet future demand on the grid, including to support the deployment of heat pumps.”

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