The £60bn UK mega-project that must be completed by 2035 and will add £30 to our bills

The UK’s electricity grid needs an eye-watering £60bn of upgrades if the Government wants to meet its green targets by 2035, according to the National Grid Electricity Systems Operator (ESO).

ESO claims that around 4,000 miles of undersea cables and 1,000 miles onshore power lines are required to hit the decarbonisation target.

The move would cost between £20 and £30 a year per customer, the body said. The Government claimed that the ESO’s plans were preliminary and hadn’t yet past “a robust planning process”.

ESO is currently owned by National Grid, but later this year it will become state-owned. ESO runs the country’s electricity grid and would run the updated network too.

The latest £58bn estimated bill is for work needed between 2030 and 2035. But the taxpayer is on the hook for another estimated £54bn for work required between now and 2030.

The huge outlay would allow the UK to harness offshore wind from where its produced out at sea, to where it could be used by Brits up and down the country.

The move would be central to markedly increasing Britain’s supply of green energy, according to the ESO, which claimed the project would be the largest of its kind in 70 years.

According to the Government, the plans would support more than 20,000 jobs. However the proposal would need to get through a robust planning process. This hurdle has seen many previous infrastructure plans fail.

The ESO has called for “swift and co-ordinated” progress, without which it claims the UK’s climate targets may not be met.

It said: “Great Britain is about to embark upon the biggest change to the electricity network since the high voltage transmission grid was established back in the 1950s.”

As well as the proposed upgrade to the grid, other forms of renewable energy such as via solar panels and wind farms, will also contribute to Britain’s green power network.

The submerged cables will come ashore at a number of different locations, mainly on the east coast of Scotland and England. Once on dry land, the energy will be transported via overhead pylons. It may also get around the country via underground cables, but this will cost four times as much.

According to the BBC, West Wales and East Anglia are likely to be where many of the new pylons will be.

Speaking to the national broadcaster, Jake Rigg, corporate affairs director at the ESO, said communities across the UK are being engaged over the infrastructure project.

Those opposed to it argue that the construction of more pylons threatens areas of outstanding national beauty.

Mr Rigg said: “What we’re trying to do is minimise impact on communities, in particular Scotland and East Anglia.”

He added that while “undergrounding” can be pursued to prevent pylons having to go up, those processes are more expensive and require more maintenance.

Essex resident, Rosie Pearson, who lives in Kelvedon near Colchester, runs the group Essex Suffolk Norfolk pylons. She said that her group are not opposed to wind power per se, but believes the grid should be run offshore and that pylons should be replaced with underground cables.

She told the BBC: “Whenever anyone thinks about a grid upgrade, they think about pylons. No-one thinks about these other, better ways of doing things so that’s what upsets people when they’re told they’re going to have a pylon next to their garden.”

“We’re fully supportive of the need for a grid upgrade, but what’s got to happen is it’s got to be done in the best way possible and it’s got to bring communities along with it.”

A spokesperson from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero said: “Any projects taken forward would be required to progress through a robust planning process.

“To keep up with growing demand, work to reinforce the grid would connect more low-cost offshore wind and low carbon energy, helping to future proof our energy supply, reduce bills and bring the UK closer to our net zero goals.”


Leave a Comment