A new report out Friday suggests paying British households a lump sum if they end up living near some of the thousands of new electricity pylons that wlll need to be put up to transmit the massive increase in electricity production needed to decarbonize the country by 2050. File Photo by Neil Hall/EPA-EFE
Aug. 4 (UPI) -- Britain should consider paying residents to overcome local opposition to the thousands of new electricity pylons that will be needed to help power the country's transition to clean energy, according to a government-commissioned report published Friday.
The recommendation to compensate people for having the pylons running past their homes, as well as simplifying planning and regulatory rules, were among 18 proposals put forward by the country's first-ever energy networks commissioner on how to halve lead-times for strategic electricity transmission infrastructure.
Commissioner Nick Winser called for "lump sum payments for individual households close to new lines," and the establishment of new locally administered community funds for each affected area to fund schemes to decarbonize the energy system and homes.
"I acknowledge the difficulties of local governance, but this proposal ensures that the money is spent on green measures, and where it is most needed while reducing bills near infrastructure does not," Winser said.
"There is every opportunity to be generous with these payments. Undergrounding power lines costs between five and 10 times more than overhead lines and causes more environmental damage."
Winser was commissioned to come up with ways to slash 12-14 years currently taken from identification of need to commissioning against a backdrop of very few new transmission circuits being built in the past 30 years and the massive increase in capacity required to carry the 50GW of wind and 24GW of nuclear power due to come on stream by 2050.
"That magnificent achievement will be wasted if we cannot get the power to homes and businesses. The implications of being able to build wind generation faster than the associated connections to customers will be serious: very high congestion costs for customers, and clean, cheap domestic energy generation standing idle, potentially for years," Winser said.
One of the major hurdles is that wind projects take much less time to build -- roughly half as long -- as the new transmission infrastructure required to carry the electricity they produce to where it is needed.
The report warned this mismatch could see the National Grid forced to pay wind farms to stop generating electricity at times when the amount of power being generated threatens to overwhelm the system -- a cost that would be passed through to consumers' bills.
Winser said the government's aim to cut strategic transmission build times by three years, and ultimately by half was "the right one."
"I believe that we must hit the more ambitious end of this and reduce the overall timescale to seven years. I am confident that this is achievable."
The pylons question is part of a long-standing issue over development in general, with voters in wealthier rural areas of the country in particular, frequently blocking plans for new roads, housing and industry in their area.
The compensation proposal was roundly rejected by a least one such local community in the east of the country which called it "very worrying."
"It sounds like they might be intending to essentially pay off communities with nominal sums instead of actually getting the right projects," Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk Pylons Action Group founder Rosie Pearson told the BBC.