Electric grid constraints undermining UK industry Net Zero efforts

Posted on 20 Nov 2023 by The Manufacturer

Progress towards industrial decarbonisation in the UK is being undermined by access to adequate electricity grid infrastructure, the Industrial Decarbonisation Research and Innovation Centre (IDRIC) has learned as part of an ongoing survey.

Initial evidence collected from 26 companies located across the largest UK industrial clusters, as well as from dispersed industrial sites, has highlighted delays in obtaining new or upgraded electricity grid connections as one of the major barriers to decarbonisation.

To put this into context, while not all companies face delays, many companies reported they had to wait several years for new grid connections, with some connection date offers extending well into the 2030s. Such delays are set to increase costs, as well as risk critical investment and lost opportunities to tackle industrial emissions.

Forming part of the preliminary findings, IDRIC polled general manufacturing firms, energy companies, and foundation industry sectors including cement, ceramics, chemicals, food and drink, paper and pulp, and metals among others to understand the issues impacting their decarbonisation plans.

Delays in companies obtaining new or upgraded electricity connections are affecting all pathways to decarbonisation: electrification, onsite electricity generation, hydrogen generation, carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) and energy efficiency.

Further evidence collection on the experiences of grid constraints among industrial and manufacturing sectors across the UK is ongoing.

Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer, Director of IDRIC, said:“IDRIC regularly engages with companies in the major industrial sectors across the UK, taking a multi-disciplinary approach to industrial decarbonisation. Through the initial information-gathering process, we were able to analyse companies varying in size from 100 to 8,000 employees, representing a diverse range of industrial sites and requirements.

“The UK Government’s target is to reduce industrial emissions by 69% by 2035, relative to 2022. To achieve this, the Climate Change Committee’s 2023 report stated that it would require urgent and radical change in the UK’s manufacturing and industrial sectors.

“The overarching aim of this industry survey is to take stock of the current limitations impacting industrial decarbonisation as a whole. Ultimately, to achieve the Government’s critical goals in tackling climate change, companies must reduce emissions at scale. IDRIC is looking to continue collaborating with relevant stakeholders to support the update of industrial policies to accelerate the pace of change.”

Dr Chris Williams, Chair of the IDRIC Stakeholder Group, said: “The initial evidence gathered by this IDRIC survey is of real concern to the UK’s ambition to be net zero and could put UK jobs at risk. The results show that no matter which decarbonisation technology our industries choose, be it electrification, hydrogen or CCUS, any of these pathways may be hampered by grid connection issues.

“The survey has started to collate and capture the evidence needed for the UK Government to understand the real problems industries are facing now, let alone in the future, and take policy actions needed to support and grow our industries through their just transition to net zero.”

IDRIC would like to continue to hear from companies about how grid connection issues are impacting their decarbonisation plans and work together to address this challenge. Companies can participate in the Industry Survey by clicking HERE.

The briefing note with further findings from the initial survey can be found HERE.

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