Study shows £4.7 billion needed for power grid

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain needs to invest up to 4.7 billion pounds to upgrade its electricity grid by 2020 to accommodate new power generation, including renewables and nuclear plants, a study showed on Wednesday.

Electricity pylons are pictured near Cobham in Surrey, July 25, 2008. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

The study conducted by a forum of leading stakeholders in the electricity supply industry said in what would be the largest single expansion of the grid since the early 1960s, up to 1,000 km of new cables would be needed.

The forum, or the Electricity Networks Strategy Group (ENSG), is chaired by Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and Ofgem, the industry’s regulator.

With EU members to cut carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020, Britain plans to source around 30 percent of its electricity from renewables and build new nuclear plants.

“Connecting up to 35 gigawatts of renewable and up to 10 gigawatts of new nuclear power will require a major upgrade of our electricity networks,” DECC quoted the report as saying.

“Work needs to start now to upgrade the existing grid and includes proposals for high voltage subsea cable links between Scotland and England,” it said.

While Britain, already home to the world’s biggest offshore wind farms, plans to expand its capacity to around 33 gigawatts, it has yet to draft a plan on how to bring the power to the grid.

“This is a massive long term investment opportunity and this upgrade work will help support jobs across the low carbon economy,” Energy and Climate Change Minister Mike O’Brien said.

Ofgem has announced it intends to approve the funds for the pre-construction work on specific transmission projects. It is also developing proposals to make the regulatory regime capable of meeting the renewable challenges.

Environmental group Friends of the Earth welcomed the report, saying: “This report indicates that the power industry is ready to play its part in a low carbon future.”

“The Government must now show that it has the bold political vision to make it a reality,” Andy Atkins, its executive director, was quoted as saying.

“The UK could be a world leader in green power - we are the windiest country in Europe and have the continent’s best wave and tidal resources.”

Reporting by Nao Nakanishi