Council requirements for heat pumps and EV chargers have led to a crisis in electricity supply in Reading.

Scottish and Southern Electricity (SSEN) has told the council it may not be able to power developments, such as those of 50 houses or more, if they meet the Local Plan requirement to be fitted with heat pumps and EV charging.

The crisis has resulted in one partially-completed scheme of what was meant to be zero-carbon homes in Reading, having to have gas boilers in the remaining properties because SSEN could not supply enough electricity.

The council only knew of the problems when it wanted to install a high-voltage network at its Bennet Road depot to power its fleet of electric vehicles, only to discover SSEN would not supply it the electricity it needed. As a result, the council discovered SSEN has capped the amount of electricity new schemes can have.

The council’s policy committee will consider how to work with SSEN, other parties and neighbouring local authorities to tackle the crisis at its meeting on Monday, September 25.

Solar farms envisioned by the council, along with plans for 5,000 EV charging points could fall foul of the restrictions.

Cllr Micky Leng, lead councillor for planning, said: “The impact of SSEN’s cap on electricity network connections puts at risk a range of development projects across our town and could derail the progress made locally in helping to tackle the climate crisis

“With new sustainable homes a part of the Local Plan, alongside the council’s plans for more solar installations and investment in EV infrastructure, Reading is well-placed to build on that progress. Without serious investment in the local network and changes in how it is allocated however, we must question how much of it will be achievable.

“The council now intends to work with SSEN and other local bodies who share our concerns to both shine a light of this issue, and to examine how we can influence key decision makers to bring about the changes needed, without which local councils and developers are effectively paralysed and locked into fossil fuels.”

A spokesperson for SSEN said: “We are committed to delivering an electricity network to accelerate local ambitions and are working with all local authorities, including Reading Borough Council, to understand and respond to their net zero priorities and wider development plans.

“Given the recent well-documented increase in grid connection requests, there are some areas, including parts of Reading, where some larger connections are now subject to short-term contractual limitations until planned major network upgrades are complete.

“We would like to reassure developers that the vast majority of requests to connect to our network can proceed as planned and every effort is being made to remove or mitigate limitations where they exist.

“This includes reviewing connections queues, seeking to remove projects that are not progressing at the required pace, and exploring the ability to shift available capacity from other parts of our network.

“We will continue to work closely with the council and those seeking larger connections to the network to update on progress and would welcome ongoing collaboration as we work towards our shared goal.”

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