Ofgem has unveiled 26 strategic electricity transmission reinforcements in a bid to unlock wind deployments by 2030.

Provided via the regulator’s Accelerated Strategic Transmission Investment (ASTI), £20 billion will be invested into the onshore transmission network with plans to scale this initial investment as the urgency to decarbonise increases ahead of net zero by 2050.

It is hoped this will help streamline projects and reduce the time taken to deliver large onshore transmission projects.

After several consultations with key stakeholder’s the regulator has confirmed it will streamline the regulatory approval and funding process by reducing the number of regulatory assessment stages allowing transmission operators (TOs) earlier access to project funding to accelerate the delivery of ASTI projects.

In doing so, Ofgem stated this will provide the best opportunity for delivering the portfolio of projects by 2030.

The UK has set in stone several key wind targets to help support the renewable energy generation sector. The nation is collectively targeting 50GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030. There have been calls by RenewableUK to set in stone an onshore wind target of around 30GW by 2030 which could further help create investor confidence in the sector.

Numerous key decisions have been made by Ofgem to support the transmission network to facilitate the influx of expected offshore wind farms in the near future. This includes the creation of several subsea high-voltage direct current (HVDC) links being developed by SSE.

It is crucial to scale investment within the onshore transmission network with Ofgem claiming that it is not able to cater for the growing number of renewable.

HVDC could be a crucial method in connecting offshore wind farms to the UK transmission network due to the high capacity these cables are able to carry. With offshore wind farms set to generate giga-watts of renewable energy, it is highly efficient to have HVDC connecting the projects to the mainland.

“The network reinforcements announced today are another positive step in the transformation underway in the UK’s energy system,” said Ross Easton, director of external affairs for the Energy Networks Association (ENA).

“Projects like these are unlocking billions of pounds in investment and economic growth right across the country, keeping the UK at the forefront of global offshore wind development. All networks will keep working closely with Ofgem, government and the wider industry to make sure that we can unlock strategic investment in an energy system that’s fit for 2050.”

Despite the positive impact the framework from Ofgem is expected to provide, the regulator has called on TOs to implement an updated approach to delivery models and modify the current planning regime to reduce the length of time taken for planning permission and necessary consents to be obtained.

The ASTI support has also been welcomed by SSE which saw several of its projects approved via the framework.

“Today’s publication of the ASTI Framework is a critical milestone to support our collective net zero and energy security ambitions and we welcome Ofgem’s approval of the need for the investments required to deliver 2030 offshore wind targets,” said Rob McDonald, managing director of SSEN Transmission.

“Accelerating the development and delivery of the strategic electricity transmission infrastructure required to enable the deployment of homegrown and affordable, low carbon power, is arguably the most important enabler to securing the UK’s future energy security and net zero ambitions. This includes unlocking the first phase of the ScotWind leasing round, supporting UK and Scottish government targets.”

Several projects received leasing via the ScotWind initiative in January 2022. Successful floating wind projects came from SSE Renewables, Falck Renewables, Shell New Energies, Vattenfall, DEME, ScottishPower Renewables, BayWa r.e. and Northland Power. Of these, ScottishPower’s 3,000MW project has the largest capacity.

The plans are part of a mission to cater for the growing demand in decarbonised technologies set to be connected to the grid. When the government published its highly anticipated Net Zero Strategy, many in the energy industry called for more action and which would allow more projects to be scaled as a result.