To help tackle the long line of U.K. renewable power generators waiting for transmission connection, London-based utility firm National Grid plc. says it has partnered with three design firms and five contractors "to deliver the largest overhaul of the electricity grid in decades"—nine key expansion projects worth nearly $5.6 billion by 2030.

The projects, mainly still in proposal stages, will contribute toward a program to accommodate 50 GW of offshore wind energy planned to be in operation by this decade's end. 

The work will entail "building five times more electricity infrastructure than constructed over the past 30 years," according to Eloise John, who leads AECOM's energy business in the U.K. and Irish Republic.

AECOM is in joint venture with Arup for the design aspects of the project called Great Grid Partnership, along with WSP. They are joined by U.K. contractors Laing O’Rourke, Morgan Sindall Infrastructure, Morrison Energy Services, Murphy and Omexom/Taylor Woodrow.

Facing stiff global competition for products, services and skills, the partnership will work collectively as a single enterprise "to drive value and innovation and secure delivery," says National Grid. 

“The scale and pace of this [transmission grid] upgrade requires us to unite as an industry and to think and act differently," says Carl Trowell, National Grid strategic infrastructure president.

A 230-GW backlog for grid connections, nearly three time more than those existing, "has resulted in renewable energy developers receiving connection offers for the 2030s," wrote U.K. Electricity Network Commissioner Nick Winser in a report to government last summer. 

"The U.K. has been successful in stimulating investment in generation from renewables but there has not been commensurate investment in transmission networks," he added. 

The new projects fall within the Accelerated Strategic Transmission Investment system introduced in late 2022 by the government Office of Gas and Electricity Markets. It aims to simplify regulatory approvals and allow earlier access to project funding.

But the expected boom in transmission building also is generating new concern related to the construction. Former Prime Minister Liz Truss is backing opponents of one project, a 140-km line between Grimsby and Walpole in England. Also, more than 30,000 people, a still growing total, have already signed a petition opposing the proposed 184-km line between the England towns of Norwich and Tilbury. "The power is generated offshore and needed in London ... keep it offshore until it gets there," they argue.