May 13, 2024

Our renewable energy strategy is falling short. If we ever want to make Net Zero we must remove these barriers.

The obstacles to Net Zero must be simplified and where possible removed.

There are a number of things that can complicate and delay a renewable energy project, but what are they, and does it have to be this way?

There have been some significant challenges for renewable energy suppliers in recent years in delivering on renewable energy projects throughout the UK, despite the obvious benefits and the governments Net Zero Strategy which foresees a growing necessity for renewable energy.

Our Energy and Infrastructure team have extensive experience working on a wide range of renewable energy projects for electricity generation and distribution, onshore and offshore wind farms, nuclear and solar power generation, waste to energy, battery and EV charging. We understand your commercial objectives and our experts can assist across the full lifecycle of your project; from acquisition and site set up, to planning & construction advice and funding.

Technical limitations

For electricity connections generation installations in excess of 16A (3.68kW) per phase must comply with Engineering Recommendationgulation (EREC) G99. The purpose of the Engineering Recommendation (EREC) is to provide requirements for the connection of power generating facilities to the distribution networks of licensed Distribution Network Operators (DNOs). There may be inadequate infrastructure to support connection of a renewable energy project which means the developer must install additional transmission lines capable of supporting the project. The requirement to comply with G99 regulations also adds a further layer of bureaucracy and cost for developers, with the new G99 standard having more onerous operating requirements.

Developers and suppliers should familiarise themselves with the requirements of the G99 regulations to ensure their scheme has the capability to meet these higher performance requirements by designing and building infrastructure sufficient to enable them to fulfil their obligations.

Regulatory obstacles

It can take some time for a renewable energy project to obtain planning permission and compliance with the planning and regulatory framework can be complex and time consuming. Projects can face significant delays and costs due to requirements to provide impact assessments, reports and surveys, hold consultations with stakeholders and timetable works. This is particularly relevant where there is local opposition from the planning authority or general public. There are stringent regulations for the construction, implementation and management of renewable energy facilities which slows the process further.

Reform of the planning and regulatory requirements to bring these up to date with changes in the market and the increasing demand for viable projects, as well as a collaborative approach between all stakeholders will assist in streamlining the processes required to realise a new project.

Connection delays

Probably the biggest issue facing developers of renewable energy projects are the serious delays in seeking a grid connection, with the worst case scenario being a delay of up to 10 years. Generally, connection applications are dealt with on a first-come-first-served basis with each new connection request being considered in light of those whose application was accepted earlier. Great Britain’s Electricity System Operator (ESO) and network companies do not usually allow one project to overtake another, that is unless the network reinforcement they are dependent on is already completed. This means there is a risk that another project will receive a connection date in priority over another, even if the project which loses out has been ongoing for some time, essentially a ‘first ready, first connected’ process.

The volume of connection applications received by the ESO has also increased tenfold over the last five years. The ease with which a developer can apply for a connection agreement has allowed speculative and non-viable projects to receive connection offers and be allocated network capacity, even if they do not progress. The ability to ‘sell on’ network capacity once secured has also increased speculative project applications. This has resulted in a large number of non-viable projects slowing the transmission queue and delaying more viable and advanced developments from connecting. Long connection timescales mean meeting connection milestones is more challenging for developers.

Equally, with increasing costs and more competition entering the sector such delays may result in significant financial implications or loss of the project altogether. This is particularly relevant where the project requires funding and becomes unviable for lending purposes as a result.

  • The existing connections model was designed with old technology in mind, when there were far fewer projects to connect. The Energy Networks Association (ENA) has published a three-step plan to speed up new connection applications setting out three immediate priority areas:
    Reforming the applications process by promoting mature viable projects that are closer to delivery above those which may not be ‘holding up’ the queue;
  • Changing how transmission and distribution networks coordinate connections; and
  • Greater flexibility through new contractual options.

To understand whether a project is viable in terms of costs, timings and network capacity many network company’s now offer ‘surgeries’ so that developers can liaise with them to talk through their plans at an early stage.

Availability of network capacity

The existing electricity grid is not designed to accommodate the increasing requirement for renewable energy projects. Addressing the impacts on the existing infrastructure requires significant investment in infrastructure and technology to meet supply and demand.

Ofgem has already taken action to assist rapid investment in new transmission infrastructure and regulatory reform. With electricity demand expected to more than double in the coming years, electricity networks need to be improved at a speedy rate. Upgrades will be needed at a local level to meet the increased demand and given the numerous factors affecting the future development of electricity networks, Ofgem are continually reviewing the regulatory framework to meet the anticipated challenges and opportunities. Such reforms will require engagement from government and all stakeholders.

Environmental, Geographical & Technical Constraints

Additionally, a renewable energy project may need to consider the environmental impact on the surrounding areas.  Will it disrupt the local ecosystem? Are there space limitations or restrictions? Is there adequate infrastructure in place to support the proposed development?  Developers are frequently coming up against planning conditions which require them to mitigate these risks and undertake detailed environmental and impact assessments to achieve planning approval.

Developers can pre-empt these requirements by obtaining planning advice and undertaking surveys and assessments at the outset of a project.


The renewable energy sector is frequently bringing large scale projects to the market and these require significant upfront investment, with each funderproject having its own requirements and conditions to comply with before finance will be provided. Most significantly funders will want to ensure the project is viable for the lifetime of the project. There are likely to be even more hoops to jump through for new technologies without an existing benchmark for comparison.

Funders will want to be comfortable that the developer has secured land rights for the project, that there is a good chance of gaining planning permission and ultimately securing a grid connection. Developers commonly deal with ‘ticking off’ these requirements by way of an Option, which enables the developer to have certainty that the project will be viable before committing to a long term arrangement.

So, what does the future hold?

The government has set targets for renewable energy generation to achieve net-zero by 2050 and in the UK’s Energy Trend Report, renewable technologies provided a record-high amount of power in 2023, at 47.3%.

Ofgem’s November 2023 Connections Action Plan also sets out actions and measures underway and being developed by the ESO and network companies to accelerate connections applications, with projects that have existing offers having to meet additional criteria to ‘stay in the queue’.

Increasing innovation and investment into new technologies and infrastructure, and reforming of regulatory policy frameworks will all assist in overcoming these challenges.  This will require effective collaboration between industry, government, and society.  With the right policies and investments, renewable energy projects will be a sustainable development that will generate benefits for years to come.

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