The Government are working with Ofgem, network companies and others to increase network capacity. This includes Ofgem accelerating strategic transmission projects worth £20 billion and allowing £3.1 billion over the next five years for upgrades to the local distribution network.
I have been contacted by a number of businesses, mostly farms, that want to install renewable energy in the form of a solar array or a wind turbine, but have been advised that they will have to pay thousands of pounds to help to upgrade the grid in their area, making those projects unaffordable. Along with the commitment to phase out oil-fired boilers, that means that there will be huge demand on rural grid capacity. Will the Minister reassure me that he is taking steps to ensure rural networks will be able to cope with that surge in demand?
I am very happy to give the hon. Member that assurance. We are doing everything we can, working with Ofgem, companies, providers and other organisations, to ensure that the grid across the United Kingdom, but in particular in rural locations, where there will be a huge surge in demand, is able to cope and that people have fair and equitable access to that.
A few weeks ago, Knaresborough-based Harmony Energy opened the largest battery farm in Europe. What steps are being taken to allow grid capacity and connections for renewables and storage to be made much more quickly, so that projects such as Harmony’s can come on stream, deliver energy resilience and cut carbon emissions?
We will jointly publish a connections action plan with Ofgem in the summer, setting out actions by the Government, Ofgem and industry to accelerate connections and reform queue management systems. Network companies are already taking steps to free up network capacity and bring forward connections via shovel-ready renewable and storage projects, ahead of slower moving ones.
Will the Minister explain how, on his watch, things have got to such a wretched state with grid development? The grid apparently cannot now connect renewable energy plants to the system until after 2035, the date by which the Government say in the energy security strategy
“we will have decarbonised our electricity system”.
Presumably they envisage that system will be connected to the grid by that point. Has he been unaware that there is a serious problem, or was he aware, but did nothing about it?
My watch began only in February. However, I believe the United Kingdom is a victim of its own success, as this is what happens when new renewable electricity production is developed at such scale and pace. We understand the challenges facing the country and the grid. That is why we are meeting with Ofgem and have commissioned the Winser review, which we will publish in the summer. We are determined that we will meet that 2035 target.
The Minister says that some things are beginning to happen, but does he recognise in this context the figure of £30 billion, which is the investment the energy system operator considers is necessary to make the system fit for offshore wind and other renewables coming on to the system, not by 2035 but by 2030? Is he prepared to commit now to find that amount of investment, one way or another? If he cannot do that, how can we take his assurances on action at all seriously?
This Government are determined to face up to the challenges that we have. We have moved forward at such pace, having inherited a disgraceful situation in terms of how much renewable electricity was being produced under the last Labour Government. That is why the grid is facing such challenges today and why we have commissioned Nick Winser to produce a review in the summer to see how we can move much faster to achieve our goals. I would welcome the hon. Gentleman and the Labour party being more supportive, talking up this country and our success in developing renewable electricity, and working with us to tackle the challenges that he so rightly brings to the Floor of the House today.