UK energy networks ‘struggling’ with demand, Sir John Armitt warns

The UK’s energy distribution networks are said to be “struggling” to cope with new demands (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)
The UK’s energy distribution networks are said to be “struggling” to cope with new demands (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

The UK’s electricity grid is still “struggling” with capacity issues, the country’s infrastructure chief has warned.

Sir John Armitt, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, said the issue was a proving a challenge for the building of new homes and the rollout of electric vehicle (EV) charging points.

Last year, the construction of new housing in parts of west London was put at risk by “electricity capacity restrictions”, though a solution was found with National Grid and others to enable “smaller demand” developments to go ahead.

At a City Hall meeting on Thursday however, Sir John warned that the problem was still blighting several projects across the UK.

He told members of the London Assembly that electricity distribution was “ a key challenge” likely to get worse, as “electric vehicles and heat pumps will place unprecedented demands on the system”.

Sir John said: “I know from my own experience with other organisations that the distribution networks, not only in London, but in many places across the country, are struggling, already, to meet the extra demand.

“Whether that is extra demand as a consequence of significant housing developments - Nine Elms [the development around Battersea Power Station] I think was a classic example, where they were well into construction and still didn’t have the amount of the electricity that was going to be necessary to power that development.

“And we know that it’s a challenge for those who are trying to lay down EV charge points, where they would wish to get on with doing it, but cannot get on with doing it, because they’ve got to wait for the energy companies to provide them with the electricity.”

Sir John said one of the constraints faced by National Grid was the difficulty in receiving planning permission for much of the infrastructure needed to increase capacity in the long term - such as the onshore elements of offshore wind farms.

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero has been approached for comment.