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Operators facing long waiting times for energy grid connections that will allow them to install chargers to power their electric fleets, and solar powered systems to heat their warehouses, have had a large piece of red tape removed from the process this week, with Ofgem’s announcement that it will cut waiting times by removing ‘zombie projects’.

The new rules will speed up electricity grid connections for viable projects and force stalled or speculative developers out of the queue. It is a major step away from the existing ‘first-come, first-served’ system, which has led to a long queue of energy projects and hampered the logistics industry transition to net zero transport solutions.

The rule change will give National Grid ESO the power to introduce strict milestones into connection agreements and terminate projects if they do not hit them at each project stage. The ESO will publish guidance on 27 November on how it will use its powers with the first terminations of zombie projects likely to happen as early as 2024.

The changes come after Ofgem’s CEO Jonathan Brearley said in May that urgent reform to the connections system was vital to unlock new investment and hit national targets which require the delivery of 50GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030 and 70GW from solar by 2035.

Today’s announcement comes ahead of a joint connections action plan which Ofgem and the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero are due to publish later this month. It also comes ahead of the government response to recommendations to halve the time to build transmission infrastructure by the then Electricity Networks Commissioner, Nick Winser, and builds on National Grid ESO’s five-point plan which aims to create capacity and accelerate connection dates for transmission projects.

Eleanor Warburton, Ofgem’s deputy director for institutions for net zero energy systems, management and security, said: “The transition to net zero demands urgent changes to the electricity connections system – or we cannot unlock investment, speed up network build and accelerate new technology.

“This is a big step towards phasing out the first-come first-served queuing system. We want new power on the grid as quickly as possible, so if you’re ready, you can connect sooner. If you’re not ready and are blocking the progress of others, you’ll be removed – you can’t sit on the queue with no consequences.”

Julian Leslie, ESO chief engineer and head of networks, added: “We warmly welcome these new rules approved by Ofgem enabling us to proactively terminate zombie projects in the connections queue. This is a milestone moment in the ESO’s efforts to lead the transformation of the grid connections process, making it fit for purpose for a modern network that is rapidly evolving and decarbonising.

“The ESO will be uncompromising in our approach to driving out projects that cannot meet their connection date, paving the way for more viable projects that have a real chance of plugging into the grid, energising the UK economy.”