Receive free UK infrastructure updates
We’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest UK infrastructure news every morning.
Homeowners should get “generous” compensation in exchange for agreeing to have high-voltage power lines built nearby, a report aimed at speeding up the delivery of big transmission projects in the UK has recommended.
Nick Winser, who was appointed the government’s first electricity networks commissioner last year, said in the document published on Friday that the offer of lump sum payments to individuals could ease widespread resistance to new installations. The report also recommended “streamlining” the planning and regulatory process.
These measures would help halve the 14 years it takes on average to build new electricity transmission projects, he added.
The proposed shift away from fossil fuels towards wind turbines, heat pumps and electric cars as part of the drive to hit the UK’s net zero targets by 2050 requires a huge expansion of the electricity grid to move the power to where it is needed.
National Grid, the FTSE 100 owner of Britain’s transmission network, called on the government earlier this year to reform the planning system to cope with the planned overhaul. It has estimated that five times as much work on the network will be needed over the next seven years than was undertaken over the past three decades.
The increase in development risks triggering new tensions over plans to decarbonise the economy, with campaigners already raising concerns about the local impact of new pylons, overhead power lines and underground high-voltage cabling.
Winser said there was a precedent for the lump sum payments. “That wouldn’t be that dissimilar in my mind to the sort of compensation we already use for infrastructure classes, like roads for example.” Homeowners can already apply for compensation if the value of their property is hit by new road developments or expansion projects.
Winser declined to put a figure on the size of the compensation payments for households but said there was an “opportunity for those benefits to be generous”. He also recommended offering funding to affected communities.
He noted it costs significantly less to build an overhead line compared with an underground line with the difference as much as £1mn per km and £9mn per km, respectively.
Tom Glover, UK chair for RWE, the UK’s largest power generator, said halving the time took to build out the network “would be a game-changer for the industry and the country”.
Winser’s report comes as the government faces criticism over the pace of progress towards its legally binding target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Earlier this week, the House of Commons science, innovation and technology committee said ministers lacked a strategy to achieve its aim of tripling Britain’s nuclear power generating capacity. Last month, the Climate Change Committee, the government’s independent environmental advisers, deemed progress “worryingly slow”.
On Wednesday Grant Shapps, the energy secretary, told industry leaders the government was “absolutely committed” to getting to net zero, although it would do so in a “realistic and rational way”, including pumping more oil and gas from the North Sea. Colleagues of Shapps have said he would welcome Winser’s proposals
Sir John Armitt, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, welcomed the report, adding: “We need transformational change in our electricity network to support the government’s ambitious offshore wind plans and to support decarbonised heating and electric vehicles.”