By Keith Anderson, Chief Executive, ScottishPower
Energy policymaking over the last week has been a bit like a Euro 2024 qualifying campaign. Two late screamers of goals have helped clinch entry into the competition after what could be described as a ropy mid-way performance.
In September, you could have been forgiven for thinking Britain was puttering at half time on its energy ambitions.
The watering down of EV and heat targets, concern over grid delays and the failure to procure any new offshore wind in the AR5 auction was starting to paint a picture we were going down 3-0 in the first half.
But today’s announcement on speeding up electricity network deployment could well turn out to be a game-changer. It’s a much-needed boost to help get Britain back on track as a nation that builds infrastructure the rest of the world is envious of.
Alongside the Government’s move to increase the maximum price for offshore wind projects in the next auction, AR6, it sends a clear signal that the UK is serious about attracting investment and unlocking growth.
We were pioneers in building some of the first electricity grids almost a century ago. We’ve led the way in developing and deploying offshore wind at scale, bringing home-grown green power to millions of homes. We need to be bold now in building the electricity superhighways the country needs to bring more renewables onto the system and make the take-up of electric transport and heating a reality.
It’s no good investing in offshore wind if it can’t be transported around the country. That means new transmission infrastructure to get the energy to the points of demand. The Government is right to recognise the need to speed up planning approvals, and the importance of bringing local communities along with us at the same time.
A relentless focus on people, planning and the project pipeline is key. I’ve said before that if the Government halves the time on consenting, ScottishPower will double our investment. If we can get the four Ps in place – planning reform, pipeline, procurement and a spatial plan— then I’ve no doubt we can get this country growing.
At ScottishPower, we have a long history of working with local communities and ensuring they benefit from the infrastructure they host. Our SP Energy Networks’ Green Economy Fund has helped provide £20m of vital investment for local projects to develop their own low carbon initiatives. Earlier this year, we launched the £5m Net Zero Fund to carry on this work. Our SP Renewables business has invested almost £60m in community benefit schemes across the country – bringing an extra economic boost for towns and villages near onshore, offshore and solar projects.
We look forward to working with the Government and industry as we take forward the plans that not only get the right infrastructure built but also deliver a positive impact on society over the long-term.