THE firm responsible for the electricity distribution network for Craven has defended its actions following concerns that the local electricity grid was “not fit for purpose”.

Northern Powergrid said while there is spare capacity in the grid for connections in North Yorkshire, there were “national level constraints causing long lead times for generation connections”.

The comments from the firm that delivers electricity to 3.9 million homes and businesses follows North Yorkshire councillors warning the lack of availability on the power grid could derail a strategy to prepare for the ban on sales of new fossil fuel vehicles from 2030.

A meeting of North Yorkshire Council’s executive recently heard the grid was holding back businesses, delaying the opening of some proposed renewable energy schemes by many year and could hinder the development of a publicly available electric vehicle charging network.

The meeting heard the authority was so concerned about it impeding the establishment of the required 3,000 publicly available EV charging points by 2030 that the council was investigating using solar and hydro-electric solutions to provide power in some places.

Councillor Keane Duncan, the authority’s executive member for highways and transportation, said the rural nature of North Yorkshire and electricity grid constraints meant the county faced a relatively greater challenge in preparing for the switch to electric vehicles than elsewhere.

The council’s climate change boss Councillor Greg White added: “It’s great that we are going to have all these charging points, but are we going to have an electrical supply to these charging points to make them work because the local electricity distribution network at the moment doesn’t seem like it’s going to be fit for purpose.”

The concerns came after the council’s leaders and senior officers, alongside leaders of North Yorkshire businesses, held a two-hour meeting with Northern Powergrid officials and the National Infrastructure Commission to tell them the lack of grid connectivity was damaging businesses.

The authority’s chief executive, Richard Flinton, told the executive the council had been regularly lobbying the electricity infrastructure firm to develop capacity on the grid.

He said: “We are in the hands of others, but we are working very hard to make those other parties understand that we in North Yorkshire are very concerned about this and require their engagement on our issues.”

In response, Northern Powergrid said it had been “progressing discussions across a number of areas” and understood the question surrounding the electricity network and capacity is a key element of these discussions.

However, the firm said given a large area of North Yorkshire is rural, “there could always be a scenario where little or no infrastructure existed and in those cases it may be costly and take some time to facilitate a connection”.

A Northern Powergrid spokesperson said in such cases alternatives would be discussed on a project by project basis.

The firm said it was also supporting the council on details surrounding the electric vehicle charge points having renewable energy sources connected, and the best options for those connections.

Northern Powergrid said it was investing about £170m a year as part of its decarbonisation targets to 2028, which alongside recent industry changes regarding charges for getting connected “should allow more low carbon technologies to be connected” and on average, at a cheaper cost.

The firm said across North Yorkshire customers are utilising around 55 per cent of available capacity, which was forecast to increase to about 65 per cent by 2029/2030.

The spokesperson added: “Although capacity is available, there are currently national level constraints causing long lead times for generation connections.

“There is a significant programme of work underway across the industry, including Ofgem and Government, to resolve the issue.  However, for smaller renewable generation requirements, Northern Powergrid continues to progress those requests as business as usual.”