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The government is set to back plans intended to halve the 14 years it currently takes on average to deliver the big electricity transmission projects needed to overhaul the UK’s energy system.
Energy secretary Grant Shapps is expected this week to publish and endorse a report by industry veteran Nick Winser on how Britain can speed up the construction of electricity networks.
Colleagues of Shapps said that he would welcome Winser’s proposals, part of efforts to reassure energy companies that he will remove regulatory barriers to facilitate their investment in new projects.
The minister will host leading energy companies at a meeting in Downing Street on Wednesday and is expected to face a chorus of complaints over planning delays associated with new renewable energy projects.
“We will be making the case for low carbon energy and all the stuff we would like to see happen to deliver it,” said a representative of one company which is due to attend.
The proposed shift away from fossil fuels and towards wind turbines, heat pumps and electric cars requires a huge overhaul of infrastructure to generate electricity and move it to where it is needed.
The government wants to decarbonise the electricity system by 2035, while Labour has said it will try to do so by 2030, if the party wins the next general election.
Winser was appointed the UK government’s first “electricity networks commissioner” last year with a mandate to speed up the delivery of big transmission projects.
He told MPs in June that he expected to be able to set out ways to halve the time for delivery of projects from 14 to seven years.
“The 14 years is only a notional number, by the way — in some cases it has taken substantially longer,” he added. “I am very pleased to be reporting that we think that the process should be done in seven years.”
Winser told MPs that there should be more strategic planning, “comprehensive and transparent” information to communities as well as a system that allowed them to benefit directly if new power lines went through their areas.
National Grid, the FTSE 100 company that owns and operates Britain’s main electricity network, in May called on the government to reform the planning system so that new clean energy projects can be delivered faster.
“The scale of the transformation needed over the next decade and beyond is a level not seen for generations,” John Pettigrew, the chief executive of National Grid, said at the time.
“Incremental change will not be sufficient — we need a transformative approach.”
Oil and gas companies including Shell and BP are due to attend Wednesday’s meeting, where Shapps is expected to urge them to invest in the UK North Sea.
Rishi Sunak on Monday also backed the granting of more than 100 new oil and gas exploration licences in the North Sea.
Shapps believes the government’s commitment to renewable energy and to carbon capture and storage technology, to help lower UK emissions, will provide business with the certainty it needs to invest in Britain.
However, the US is offering substantial tax breaks to lure investment in energy schemes across the Atlantic.
Shapps will use the meeting to reassure the industry that the government will work with the police and the civil nuclear constabulary to stop protesters from disrupting the country’s power supply.