Connectology podcast

Listen or watch on your favourite platforms

Guest series with Laura Henry, Connections Policy and Change Manager at National Grid ESO

10 May 2024

The running time is 38 minutes


In this episode of the Connectology® Podcast, Catherine Cleary is joined by Laura Henry, Connections Policy and Change Manager at the Electricity System Operator (National Grid ESO).

They discuss the progress and impact of the various tactical initiatives that the ESO has implemented since it launched its five point plan in February 2023, and what work is left to do aside from Connections Reform itself.

As well as the TEC Amnesty, modelling assumptions, treatment of storage, Technical Limits and the Transmission Works Review, they cover letters of authority and the ongoing work on allowable changes and mod apps – and when new applications will be needed. Laura also signposts the various workgroups, webinars, newsletters and consultations – and some timescales and dates to be aware of.


[00:00:05] Catherine Cleary

Hello, everyone, and welcome to a very special edition of Roadnight Taylor’s Connectology podcast, where we are very pleased to be joined by Laura Henry from the ESO. So, Laura – welcome.

[00:00:17] Laura Henry

Thank you. Thanks very much for having me on the podcast today. I’m very honoured to be here.

[00:00:22] Catherine Cleary

You are actually our first guest from the ESO. So you are definitely very, very honoured. And we’re very glad you made the time for it. So, thank you very much.

[00:00:28] Laura Henry

Yeah, thanks so much for having me.

[00:00:30] Catherine Cleary

Laura, so your, official job title is, Head of Connection Change. Sorry, Change of Policy?

[00:00:36] Laura Henry

So, it’s the Policy and Change Manager in the ESO Connections Team.

[00:00:41] Catherine Cleary

There we go. Okay. Sorry, I knew Change and Policy were in it which, I guess given the events going on at the moment, is quite a job?

[00:00:49] Laura Henry

Yeah, yeah, there’s definitely a lot of changes and a lot of policies needed with all the changes that are going on at the minute. So, yeah.

[00:00:55] Catherine Cleary

Obviously we see you on webinars and at the connection seminars and your team are primarily sort of focused on some of the tactical changes, some of the kind of shorter-term duration initiatives that you’ve rolled out over the last 18 months. Is that right?

[00:01:12] Laura Henry

Yeah. So, my team is responsible for most of the tactical changes across connections that affect transmission. My colleague Will Kirk-Wilson’s team, lead on the distribution side of the tactical changes. And then my team are also responsible for leading on code changes that impact connections from a connections subject matter expert point of view. And also, my team write and develop policies that may impact connections but where a code change isn’t necessarily needed.

[00:01:42] Catherine Cleary

So, things like LOAs, code change, that was your that was your team. And of future things that might come out, guidance on like technology changes which we can discuss in a bit. That’s also your team?

[00:01:53] Laura Henry

Yes. Yeah. So, lots of policies on different areas to try and help customers interpret the codes better.

[00:02:01] Catherine Cleary

Which are always gratefully received! I think all of us could say in this connection space at the moment, guidance is good, right?

[00:02:09] Laura Henry

Yes, Yeah definitely. There’s a lot going on and we want to make it as clear as possible to our customers – what it means to them, why the changes need it and just guidance through the processes.

[00:02:19] Catherine Cleary

Yeah, obviously. And so, looking back, it’s been about 18 months that we’ve been running the kind of tactical initiatives or since you announced the first of them, and I’m conscious that you’ve probably presented that snake chart, sharing all of the probably 50-plus things that you’re doing. Which of those initiatives… have you got a favourite something that you’ve implemented over the last 18 months?

[00:02:45] Laura Henry

Yeah. So there has been a lot of initiatives. We started with the ESO’s Five Point Plan, which was launched back in February 2023, it then morphed into the Connections Action Plan actions that DESNZ and Ofgem set, which were a fast-paced set of actions which all had, well, most of them had a quarter one 2024 date to complete, which I’m pleased to say the ESO met all of our targets for that.

So yeah, there’s been a large number of changes. I mean, I guess the one that’s kind of closest to my heart is queue management. I helped to write that mod in the version that it is now, working very closely with a number of partners and also with the work group for the queue management code mod.

So yeah, that one, it’s probably the one that’s closest to my heart given that we’re still going through the implementation of it as well now.

[00:03:38] Catherine Cleary

So, you breathed a sigh of relief when Ofgem approved?

[00:03:40] Laura Henry

Yeah, definitely – especially when they approved WACM 7.

[00:03:43] Catherine Cleary


[00:03:44] Laura Henry

Yeah. It was a great, great result from that from that code mod.

[00:03:48] Catherine Cleary

We’ve discussed it on this podcast before, but in some ways it sets up a really good future for connections regime and future queue management, but it might take a while for some of those milestones to kick in and for customers who’ve got relatively late connection dates. Are you tracking that as it goes forwards to see how it impacts the queue?

[00:04:09] Laura Henry

Yeah. So, we’re still in the implementation phase of the queue management code mod. So, we’re still waiting to see which option customers choose.

[00:04:18] Catherine Cleary

Because they could still mod app at the moment?

[00:04:20] Laura Henry

Yes, we’ve still got a couple of weeks left on the notice period. So, it’ll be interesting to see which way customers go with that decision.

Then once we know which decision they’ve made, then we’re going to be working through implementing it across into all of the connection agreements. But also, that’s the point when things will start to hit.

So we have had a few milestones that have been due, we haven’t terminated anybody yet. I know that that’s always been the question that everybody asks – although I do always, try to steer people in the direction that if we haven’t terminated people, that’s still a massive success because it means all these projects are progressing and they’re achieving the milestones that they’ve been set.

So, it’s going to take a little bit of time until the queue management milestones bite, because we’re still getting them into all the agreements. But I think once it is into all of the agreements, it will make a massive change to the connections queue.

[00:05:12] Catherine Cleary

So have you had to review exemptions and so on for those few projects that might have already hit milestones or missed them?

[00:05:19] Laura Henry

No, not yet, at the minute there’s only been a  few because we’re still being in the notice period. And also, because anybody that’s had them in their agreement, they need to have signed for them to come into effect. There’s only been a few contracts that have signed at the minute. So, at the minute, I’m happy to say that everybody has met their milestones.

We haven’t had to review any exceptions. And, there hasn’t been any issues with any of the milestones.

[00:05:45] Catherine Cleary

Just sticking on this point, have you got a timeframe for those people who haven’t submitted a mod app and haven’t done so by the 27 May – that’s the deadline – for those customers who haven’t done that, they’ll get an agreement to vary with the milestones in it.

You’ll probably start processing those beginning of June. That’s going to take a while I imagine?

[00:06:10] Laura Henry

Yeah. So the code mod legal text actually says that we have two years to implement this. So the thinking behind that was because we need to essentially pull out everybody that’s requested to mod app. We need to pull them away from the list of agreements that got noticed. And then look at everybody that needs an agreement to vary and they start working through that on connection date first.

So we’re going to work in order of connection date.

[00:06:34] Catherine Cleary

So those with the closest connection dates will get their agreements to vary first?

[00:06:38] Laura Henry

Yeah. Because we’re conscious that, because the milestones start hitting four years and nine months out from connection, and that, if you go to the latest part of the milestone table it shows duration from connection date and when those milestones start to hit. So we’re conscious that we need to be focusing on people that are due to connect in the next 5 to 6 years first, and then start looking at everybody else after that.

[00:07:03] Catherine Cleary

That makes a lot more sense. Okay, so, queue management and getting those milestones, well getting the concept approved and the work still in progress, that does feel like quite a significant step, and I suppose that’s something we’re going to see more and more kind of dynamic queue management as we move into the longer term connections reform of capital C, capital R. Just going back to the technical, some tactical initiatives, have any of them be more challenging to implement?

[00:07:29] Laura Henry

I think they’ve all been challenging in their own ways. I mean, the nature of trying to change the connections process at pace, and trying to I mean, our overall goal with all of these tactical initiatives is to try and improve the connection dates for our customers and also improve a process that was written a long time ago before, you know, when the industry was a very different place to what it is now.

[00:07:52] Catherine Cleary

We didn’t have 700GW of queue!

[00:07:56] Laura Henry

Yeah. So, they all have challenges in their own way. But I think if you look at, so I guess if I just work through some of the tactical initiatives that we’ve had, maybe start with kind of the more easier ones. Not that any of them have been particularly easy, but if I start with kind of the easiest and work to the more difficult side.

TEC amnesty. So that that gave us 4.1 GW of capacity freed from the queue. It closed last year and it was the first one of the Five Point Plan initiatives to close and to complete.

Like I say, it’s all of them have their own challenges. We need we always need to do a lot of stakeholder engagement. We always need to make sure that, customers understand what these tactical initiatives of trying to achieve but that one was relatively straightforward.

[00:08:41] Catherine Cleary

I guess there was a precedent for it. We have had a TEC amnesty, you know, in the past and say there was kind of a bit of a precedent.

[00:08:47] Laura Henry

Yeah. Back in 2013, was the last one.

[00:08:49] Catherine Cleary

Yeah, it was a while ago!

[00:08:51] Laura Henry

The termination process itself is quite, a long and complicated process anyway. I’m pleased to say that we have worked through all of those TEC amnesty agreements and have terminated them or reduced TEC where that was requested. And so that one was probably the slightly easier of all of them, and also gave us 4.1 GW, which I know compared to the size of queue isn’t a lot, but it’s still a good place to start with.

[00:09:16] Catherine Cleary

That’s still a few projects that can get accelerated, isn’t it? You know, just putting it in context.

[00:09:20] Laura Henry

Yeah. And then if I move to more kind of medium, in terms of difficultly to implement. So, I’d say the, the code mod, so you’ve got the queue management CMP 376 and then the letter of authority which is CMP 427. So, I personally find when a code mod is involved, it does help to structure the process a lot more and does make things slightly easier to implement than some of the other projects, which I’ll go onto in a minute, which haven’t got that structure of the code governance process, because naturally you have the work groups, you have the input from the work group, and you have actions that you have to meet.

[00:09:57] Catherine Cleary

You commit to a timetable, don’t you really? I suppose you put forward and Ofgem provide feedback on a timetable and then you get a date for them to approve. So that helps frame it in terms of implementation time. Because some of the problem I think is probably across the industry that there’s just a question of this is a great idea, but how long is it going to take to implement.

[00:10:15] Laura Henry

Yeah, exactly. One of the key challenges with the code mod process is we don’t know which option Ofgem will pick, and we have to be ready for all of them. And often they have quite quick implementation dates. So, it’s quite tricky to make sure internally we are ready for all of these different alternatives.

But you know, we put a lot of work in, kind of behind the scenes, getting ready for all of these different options that could happen. So, you know, we do a lot of training. We change all of our processes, so for like queue management, we needed a new appendix. We update our operating procedures and then there’s all the stakeholder engagement that comes along with this as well.

So yeah, I’d say they are the kind of more medium in terms of the difficulty of implementing them. And then the trickiest ones, I would say probably are the ones that have, a high level of technical and commercial input. So, things like the non-firm energy storage, technical limits, and the transmission works review. Because of the nature of these projects, because they have a lot of technical input, and we want to make sure we’re getting the best results for our customers.

We are doing the best we can to improve the connections process. They naturally take slightly longer. And that’s why sometimes there’s some delays with some of these projects, because we want to make sure we’re doing it right. And yeah, so those ones are probably the ones that are slightly trickier to implement. But as a whole, I’d say that they’ve all got their own challenges and benefits. But cumulatively they are all helping to improve the connections process, which is great.

[00:11:56] Catherine Cleary

And then we were chatting, just before we came in about the Transmission Works review. And obviously, you know, I think it’s something which there’s probably quite a lot of expectation from in the industry, you know. Yes. Great. I can submit my expression of interest and I’ll get accelerated date.

So far the ESO has been processing these requests in tranches, and I think we’ve only actually had one tranche released of offers for earlier dates, but have you got an update on where that’s got to? Because I feel perhaps in the industry with connections reform and so much else going on, we’ve forgotten about the Transition Works review.

But it’s still going on, right?

[00:12:29] Laura Henry

Yeah. Yeah. So, there’s still a lot of work going on between the ESO and all three TOs on these projects. So, in terms of non-firm energy, sorry accelerated connections for energy storage. So, phase one achieved 10 GW of accelerated connections, which is absolutely brilliant.

Phase two is in progress at the minute. And that again is looking to achieve another 10 GW. So that’s absolutely brilliant that both of those phases have brought that many projects forward.

In terms of the Transmission Works review, so where it stands at the minute is we’re still waiting for the studies to be completed by all three TOs. They are very close to the end of this.

And I know we’ve previously publicized that we will, hopefully, be able to get back to customers in the summer this year. We’re still very hopeful that it will provide accelerated dates for those that have expressed an interest. But until we see the results of those studies, we won’t know to what extent. But that project has been brilliant in terms of improving the CPAs, changing the attrition rates. And also, like I say, we hope that it will bring accelerated dates.

[00:13:39] Catherine Cleary

So actually, that’s probably quite an important point. So, customers who did express interest last year, that EOI to say, you know, I would like to accelerate my battery storage, or I’d like to accelerate my kind of construction ready project. They can probably expect to maybe hear from you by the end of this summer, even if you’re not going to necessarily do the same batched approach where you do a few, and then, you know, wait a few months and then do a few more, or you can kind of go out to everyone with the news?

[00:14:05] Laura Henry

Yeah. So, a couple of the TOs, know projects that definitely can’t be accelerated. So we have already been in touch with those customers and made them aware because we didn’t want to keep them waiting any longer.

[00:14:15] Catherine Cleary

Bad news first – good policy!

[00:14:20] Laura Henry

Whereas the ones that we still don’t know if they can be accelerated, we keep in touch with them to let them know that we’re still looking at their project and we’re still reviewing things, and we’ll get in touch with them as soon as possible.

But, yeah, we hope by the summer we will be in a position where everybody will know and then that part of what was the Five Point Plan will then close down, ready for reform to start.

[00:14:40] Catherine Cleary

Ready for reform to start! We like bits of positive news, so maybe hope is not yet dead! If you haven’t heard from your CCM that your project can’t be accelerated!

Okay. So, I guess moving on from kind of Five Point Plan then to some of the other tactical initiatives that have been introduced sort of partly through the CAP actions. I was really interested in the proposal to bring in a bit more guidance around things like technology changes and the kind of concept of what’s an allowable change versus what’s maybe a kind of material change, which at distribution that’s been quite a defined concept for a very long time.

You know, if you change X, then then you go to the back of the queue, you know, you have to reapply. So, if you applied for a solar farm and you now want this to be a battery, you need to reapply. Whereas at transmission actually, it’s been, a probably a much more opaque process for applicants if they submit a mod app to understand, you know, is that going to change their connection dates, change their connection cost. So am I right in thinking that you’ve got some guidance, possibly in draft form at the moment?

[00:15:41] Laura Henry

Yeah. So, my team are currently working on two policies, so we’ve separated them out. One is technology change. One is what is an allowable mod app. Now there’s a lot of crossover between the two and they’ve not been fully signed off yet. So I won’t be able to go into the depths of them. But I can give a high-level overview of what they are.

So, the technology change paper essentially looks at if a project wants to change technology type from one thing to another, it might be their whole connection, or it might be part of their connection and how that would be treated.

The allowable change is one or what defines a modification application that is looking at giving customers more guidance on the process for a modification application and whether it should be put through as a mod app or whether it needs to be a brand-new application. And either they need to terminate their existing agreement and start again, or if they want to keep their existing agreement, they need to put a brand-new application in for something else.

One of the reasons why we’ve done this is because what we found is where a project needs to be terminated and start again, because it’s such a drastic change from what they were originally to what they are trying to be, we don’t typically know that until quite far through the process. So if you think of the three month offer process, it’s when the studying is really getting developed. That’s the point that you would know.

[00:17:04] Catherine Cleary

And you might be two months into your ninety days?

[00:17:06] Laura Henry

Yeah, yeah. And we don’t really want to be turning to customers and saying, oh, actually, you know how you submitted this modification application two months ago? Well, actually, you need to reapply and put it in as a brand new application and terminate your existing agreement.

So we want to try and capture that ahead of the process starting. So that is the main purpose behind the policy to try and give a bit more clarity.

[00:17:26] Catherine Cleary

I suppose from a customer perspective, because often what they care about really is I don’t mind what the process is that I go through, but I want to understand what’s at risk, by making this change, am I going to lose my point of connection or am I going to change my connection date?

So I guess is the kind of sort of the potentially three outcomes, it could be an allowable mod app that’s so simple because it’s kind of administrative change, it doesn’t require any restudy in which case your kind of connection date is safe – the technical terms of your connection offer are going to remain the same. It could be a mod app, a legitimate mod app, you know maybe you’re like adding a little bit of additional technology or something, but the rest of the project remains the same. But the TO will need to restudy that and then the date could change. Or it could be so fundamental, you know, you were an offshore wind farm and now you’re a hydrogen pumped storage in a salt cavern in a different part of the country and that’s just a new application.

So those are kind of three paths. Or there is there any kind of other route?

[00:18:19] Laura Henry

[Yeah, there is also. So, I guess on those three parts, the technology change part of it kind of falls into that other policy where there is a specific policy on what happens if you change technology. But yeah, it is essentially that showing the routes that you can take.

There’s also the more minimal changes that could be done via an administration fee.

[00:18:40] Catherine Cleary

Would that be things like a novation?

[00:18:43] Laura Henry

Yeah. Or like if you’re potentially changing some of your equipment, but it’s like for like change. So, the CUSC says at the minute that you should go through a modification application.

However, it feels like a lot of work for a customer to go through a

modification application when it’s a minor change.

[00:19:05] Catherine Cleary

If it’s still a 300 MW solar farm, but you’re changing your transformers to being, you know, half the size but having twice as many of them. That doesn’t actually have any impact on grid but it might change what’s in your appendix O?

[00:19:15] Laura Henry

Yeah. Yeah. So, things like that. We’re looking to see if there’s a way. And like I say, this isn’t set in stone yet because we’re still developing it. We’re looking to see if there’s a way that we could do it so that it’s an admin fee, just to try and make it easier for our customers.

[00:19:28] Catherine Cleary

Yeah. Well, and for everyone, probably, that sounds very pragmatic.

Okay, so on the technology change then, one question that I think that we’ve had discussions with a number of customers, particularly around energy storage – conscious that, you know, a lot of battery storage applications, for example, that went in and, and now perhaps the landscape, the kind of commercial landscape for energy storage in general is perhaps changing and people are looking at, you know, well, originally maybe I design my connection as, you know, it’s going to be a one hour or two hour battery maybe I’m looking at changing to a longer duration of storage. Is that something you’ve thought about in the technology change paper?

[00:20:03] Laura Henry

So typically the technology change paper is if a customer is moving from one thing to another, like you said, like they already are a wind farm and then they want to add some solar.

In terms of kind of different types of batteries, it hasn’t explored that. However, we could take that away to look at that as well.

[00:20:23] Catherine Cleary

I think it’s an interesting question because, it’s harder as a starting point to say, well, there would need to be a process for changing, because actually, I don’t think at the moment you ask customers, you know, so when we apply, on behalf of a storage user, there isn’t really a kind of a data field to say this is a one hour battery, you know, we just care about the megawatts. We don’t sort of care about the duration. So I suppose that one is slightly more complex because it would require going out to people, first of all to say, by the way, what is your connection so that we can record that, you know, as a one hour battery and that in future, if you want to change it, this is the policy we’d apply.

So perhaps that’s sort of the next step?

[00:20:59] Laura Henry

Yeah. But no, it’s an interesting point. And yeah, definitely happy to take away and talk about it internally.

[00:21:04] Catherine Cleary

Yeah that sounds great!

And now I’m mindful that, you have said they are draft policies, so you might not have answers to all of these, but, could you give us an example of something which would be deemed to be in your sort of material change policy, or allowable mod apps policy?

Could you give us an example of something which would be not allowed as a mod app – something which would involve a brand new application, for example?

[00:21:27] Laura Henry

Yeah, sure. So I guess, at it’s most extreme, if a project was going from generation to demand. So, I mean, it might be a very extreme example, but if it was a solar farm that all of a sudden decided it wanted to become a data centre, then that would need to be a brand new application because it’s completely different. It’s studied differently.

[00:21:49] Catherine Cleary

I suppose even on a technical basis, it has like different connection parameters. You know, you might suddenly need two bays rather than one or something from security supply standards – if that makes sense.

And, okay, perhaps sort of like stepping back from the technology types, now we’ve successfully implemented the LOA change mod, so new customers are applying now need to apply with an LOA. If they wanted to change their land parcel, would that be something which you’re talking about in terms of allowable mod apps? So, if there was no technology change but actually they were moving their site from the LOA that they had submitted with their application. Have you thought about how you might deal with that?

[00:22:29] Laura Henry

Yeah. So LOA version two, as we’re calling it internally, is following on from LOA version one, which was successfully approved by Ofgem on the 15 March and went into implementation from the 28 March. So just as a little side, moving on to, LOA version two, we’ve seen great results from that already.

We have seen application rates reduce. And also, we have seen applications be also rejected, because they haven’t provided the right LOA. So, building on from that, LOA version two falls into the connections reform code mods, and we are looking at duplication checks and red line boundaries.

What we are planning to do with the red line boundary side of the LOA is essentially mirroring what the DNOs are doing. So, what we try to do where there’s existing processes, we want alignment between transmission and distribution. We did a similar thing with queue management. So we looked at the ENA’s best practice guide and used as much of that as possible into the transmission queue management process. So for this one we will do a similar thing where we look at what the DNOs are doing and look to mirror that.

Now how that will pan out in the work groups, I don’t know at the minute they’re just starting. We will be talking about this in detail at those work groups. So, I don’t know what kind of the end outcome will be of this. But yeah, we will look to do something similar to what’s already out there.

[00:23:59] Catherine Cleary

Okay. Yeah. So, I guess from your perspective, you probably do want to kind of close down the routes for people to radically change locations, but it’s presuming a bit of a pragmatic balance between how many code mods it’s humanly possible to raise this year and what should probably be, as you say, rolled into the kind of the connections reform piece.  And I suppose it would form part of Gate two, because if Gate two is around providing land rights, then those land rights have to be land rights associated with the red line boundary. that presumably can’t change.

[00:24:27] Laura Henry

Yeah, yeah, like I say, there will be some elements that can change, because we know naturally that, you know, projects can’t necessarily stay exactly the same throughout the lifecycle. But yes, we just don’t know how it is going to pan out in workgroups at the minute.

But we are talking to industry about this. We’re working with colleagues from DNOs to understand what they’re doing as well, to make sure that we can try and get alignment there.

[00:25:54] Catherine Cleary

Okay, so anyone listening who is not sure if their land parcel, has the rest of this year to get it honed down!

And I think, I guess in general, the purpose of those two guidance documents, you said, you know, it’s about kind of providing clarity for customers. Are you hoping that actually it will disincentivise people, you know, I don’t want you to use the word sort of like fiddling around, but you know, but mod apping projects extensively.

So really kind of changing a project’s purpose within the queue, which leads to lots of mod applications that you have to process. Are you kind of trying to disincentivize that, to say, look, you know, no you’ve got what you’ve got in the queue. If you want something radically different, you’re going to have to reapply and take your chances.

And actually just saying that to people might make them think and stop them reapplying.

[00:25:40] Laura Henry

Yeah. Yeah, definitely. I mean, part of the connection action plan actions were kind of disincentivizing projects from applying and also raising the barriers to entry. So, we’ve raised the barriers to entry with LOA version one. And now we’re looking at, you know, trying to do, I guess, make sure that projects that are in the queue, so if they’ve met Gate two, then making sure that they are going to progress. You know, the whole aim of all of the work that we’re doing is to try and make sure that we progress projects that can viably progress and help meet net zero targets.

[00:26:19] Catherine Cleary

Yeah. Yeah, I think we definitely, here at Roadnight Taylor we really support that. And I think, we also see the kind of pragmatic challenges, there’s loads of things we think we should change this now! But actually it’s kind of a little bit about balance as to, how many things, how many changes we try and putting in place all at once. And I think, you know, in some ways the big connections reform mods have the opportunity to mop up a lot of these, a lot of these kind of outstanding details.

I suppose with that in mind, one of the challenges in some ways, with there being so much going on is keeping people abreast. And I’ve learned quite a lot of things from this conversation. So I think maybe invite Laura Henry over for a cup of tea. She doesn’t drink tea, but, you know, is my lesson learned.

But, how are you finding the kind of challenge of engaging with stakeholders and getting the information out there?

[00:27:07] Laura Henry

So, yeah, I mean, it’s because of the pace that we’re running at with all of these initiatives, it’s always a challenge to make sure that everybody’s getting the messages at the same time, etc. But we do we do a lot of stakeholder engagement.

I mean, stakeholder engagement forms a key part of all of the tactical initiatives. So whether it’s a work group where we’re talking to them on a regular basis or, you know, we do a lot of engagement externally. So we have our connections forum, which  is every month. So we’ve recently rebranded

[00:27:41] Catherine Cleary

That’s what used to be the Agoras?

[00:27:43] Laura Henry

Yes. Yeah. So used to be the Agoras, we’ve rebranded it as the Connections Forum, and it covers the whole of connections. So you get to hear about connections operations, connections change delivery and connection strategy as well, all in one place. And the next one is on Monday, actually. So you’ll hear from me again at that. And then we do a lot of webinars specifically on certain topics. So, when we’re implementing some of the large-scale changes. So, for example, queue management, letter of authority, we appreciate that it’s a massive change externally. And so, you know, we want to make sure that we engage with our customers and customers have the opportunity to ask us questions. So, we do a lot of tailored webinars and Q&A sessions to really make sure that customers can engage with us.

We also write a lot of guidance documents as well. So all of these materials that we put on our website to help guide customers through these big changes and help them to understand what the change is. And then we also have a monthly newsletter where we cover, you know, new things that we’re launching, but also reminders of existing tactical initiatives that are happening.

And then we’ve just had our customer seminar in Glasgow a couple of weeks ago. So, it’s great – we got to speak to nearly 200 of our customers about all the things that we’re doing to improve connections in the short term, as well as the longer-term reform as well.

[00:28:59] Catherine Cleary

I was there and you were great. There were no heckles!

[00:29:06] Laura Henry

Thank you! So yeah, I mean, stakeholder engagement is very, very important to us. We also work really closely with key stakeholders. So Ofgem, DESNZ, the TOs and the DNOs on all of the work that we do. We work really closely with them on every single initiative.

And then because of the scale of the pace that we’re working at, it’s really important that we have the right governance in place as well. So that’s where CPAG and the Connections Delivery board has been absolutely brilliant in helping to give us those forums to talk to industry about the initiatives, get feedback and then how to use that to tailor how they get delivered.

[00:29:45] Catherine Cleary

You’re being nice because, you know, I it on CPAG!  But no, and we’ve really, I mean, I’ve definitely have really been impressed and kind of welcome the level of engagement, especially with DNOs, for example.

And I think that’s perhaps been something where that, that kind of that transmission/distribution boundary has always been fraught with both kind of technical and commercial complexity. And it’s really good to see more engagement happening. I think there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes that doesn’t necessarily get shouted about in the kind of public forums.

But I think it’s been really heartening to see lots of DNOs, for example, have their own webinars, which they’ve then asked you guys to come along to and, and potentially the relevant TO, and to present a sort of united front so that people can actually ask the questions to the right entity. You know, you don’t get a sort of, he said, she said kind of element of who’s causing a delay or a problem.

So that’s been really good to see.

[00:30:31] Laura Henry

Yeah. It’s been great. Like you say, we get invited on a lot of DNO webinars, and it’s great to have that platform and engage with the DNO customers directly as well. So yeah, no, we’ll continue to do that on a regular basis as well.

[00:30:44] Catherine Cleary

Awesome. I suspect you’ve never had to speak at so many events in any other job role!

[00:30:50] Laura Henry

I do you really enjoy it! I do like that part of the role and that’s good.

[00:30:55] Catherine Cleary

That’s really good. It’s nice to see a very strong female engineering figure standing up and, you know, like, I’m in the energy industry, so you’re a very good role model Laura.

[00:31:05] Laura Henry

Oh, thank you, I appreciate it.

[00:31:07] Catherine Cleary

And do you think, I mean, your job role has been crazy over the last sort of 12 months with the level of pace of change. Are we kind of nearing the end now of the, I’m going to call it the snake, which is your PowerPoint slide which has all of those tactical initiatives on. Are we kind of nearing the end of that now and now is it over to Connections Reform to deal with the next step of changes that each implemented?

[00:31:29] Laura Henry

So yeah, like you say, the tactical initiatives have been going on for nearly two years now, but, a lot of them are going to continue past reform. So, on the snake there’s a couple of points that kind of go past connections reform, so there’s the demand security code mod so CMP 417. So that is expected to have a decision in early 2025.

And then there’s the other half of the queue management code mod. So it’s known externally as zombie projects but internally we tend to call it kind of pre-November 2025 projects. But they’re the projects that got ringfenced as part of the queue management code mod because they were due to connect in the near term.

But we have the commitment to continue to monitor them up until 27 November 2025. So that project will continue, but also there’ll be more tactical initiatives that will be needed. So, you know, connections reform is, you know, a brilliant project that’s going to create a lot of change to connections. But there’s also areas of the codes that connections reform doesn’t touch, and there’s areas that we will still need to look at improving through the tactical initiatives way past reform.

So I see the tactical initiatives in the reform working hand-in-hand with each other.

[00:32:42] Catherine Cleary

So I guess now you’ve got that team set up, you’re going to retain that capability to be a bit more sort of surgical and go in and change very specific things that need it.

[00:32:49] Laura Henry

Yeah, yeah. No, definitely. You know, we’ll still be raising code mods for areas that are defected in the CUSC or any of the codes. We’ll be writing policies where there’s areas that aren’t clear.

And my team is also supporting in the implementation of reform as well. So there’s a lot of work to be done there before reform comes into effect!

[00:33:08] Catherine Cleary

Now I’m just making a mental list of all the things I can send you in emails Laura – suggestions for next tactical changes. Maybe securities and liabilities will make it onto that list?

[00:33:18] Laura Henry

Yeah, securities has definitely been around for a long time. So we’ve got the demand securities. But that’s only a very small part.

[00:33:25] Catherine Cleary

And that’s just bringing demand customers onto the kind of CUSC section 15 which generation users uses will be used to – the kind of attributable and wider liabilities concept. But I suppose there’d be a lot of people who’d say, well, actually, that CUSC section 15 methodology is already a bit broken.

[00:33:40] Laura Henry

Yeah. No, it’s very much on our radar. We’ve been made aware of lots of different defects with section 15. So yeah, it’s definitely on our radar of things to look at once the connections reform code mods have gone through.

[00:33:54] Catherine Cleary

Awesome brilliant to hear.

So which of the tactical initiatives, if you had to pick one, do you think has been most impactful to the industry?

[00:34:03] Laura Henry

Okay. So as you know, we’ve had a number of tactical initiatives, all of which cumulatively will have a big impact on connection dates and on the connections queue. But in terms of ones that have had the biggest impact, I might just, again, like I did with the other question just go in reverse. So, I guess, if we start just I would just cover a few of them.

We start with TEC amnesty. So that released 4.1 GW of capacity. Like I said, that was the first of the Five Point Plan actions to close and it really started us off on starting to remove and reduce the size of the queue. I think the code mods that we’ve had approved recently, so queue management and letter of authority, they will have big impacts.

It’s just we’re still in the transitions phase at the minute of settling those code mods. So queue management we’re nearly at the end of the notice period. We are putting queue management milestones into agreements. But we still have got quite a long way to go in terms of getting them into all the agreements. But once it is in, I think that that will have a really big impact.

Letter of authority. We’re already starting to see application numbers reduce and also applications be rejected because they haven’t met letter of authority requirements. So again, I think in terms of raising barriers to entry, that is having a big impact. And, you know, it only came into effect on the 28 March, we’re, you know, only six weeks into it. So, I think as we see the letter of authority be in for longer, we’ll see even more results from that one.

And then the biggest areas where we’ve seen change in terms of size the queue, it’s the projects that my colleague Will Kirk-Wilson leads on. So it’s non-firm energy storage acceleration. So we’ve seen 10 GW from phase one accelerated. There’s another 10 GW estimated from phase two. So it’s brilliant that we’ve got 20 GW from that project. So really great numbers there.

[00:36:01] Catherine Cleary

And it could be more or is phase two the end?

[00:36:04] Laura Henry

So no, it will continue and there’s also, the work with the Scottish TOs as well, because 20 GW is in England and Wales, and also we will look to see if we can expand the project further as well. And then the one that’s had the biggest impact is the technical limits project, which I know…

[00:36:24] Catherine Cleary

Ah, a Roadnight Taylor favorite.

[00:36:26] Laura Henry

A lot of your customers/listeners will be interested in that one. So, you know, that one is really bridging across the transmission and distribution sides of the network. And when the project is completed, it will actually have resulted in 50 GW of accelerated connections, which is an absolutely brilliant figure. So, yeah, by far that one is the one that’s had the biggest impact in terms of gigawatts.

But like I say, cumulatively, they will all have lots of impact between them.

[00:36:56] Catherine Cleary

We just need to make sure that those 50GW can accept their offers because they’ve got enough detail on the commercial constraints and that they have not got really exorbitantly high SGT charging. So those are our other two bugbears, but I think as long as we can fix those, that 50GW is a is a very impressive number.

Well, thank you very much. Laura and we’ll leave it there.

Contact us

For further details about our services and how we can help you, please give the team a call in the office or complete and submit the contact form