Rural landowners are being conned into paying £1,000 or more for spurious applications to connect potential energy generation or battery storage sites to the power network.
According to independent power consultants Roadnight Taylor, unreputable ‘experts’ are leading landowners to believe that they have a suitable site, and charging up-front fees for inappropriate electrical grid connection applications that stand no chance of success.
The consequences of this are extremely high – not only have landowners spent £1,000 or more on an application that was never going to succeed, they may also be missing out on a genuine opportunity worth up to £125,000 in annual rent for less than two acres, explains Roadnight Taylor’s chief executive Hugh Taylor.
With such high rents available, both for battery storage and gas-fired generating set (genset) sites, it’s understandable that many landowners are exploring the opportunities.
“However, it’s also causing a scourge of unscrupulous activity from so-called advisers keen to exploit this lucrative market,” says Mr Taylor.
It is difficult for land agents, and other generalists, to provide grid advice in such a specific market – planning and site conditions may stack up, but it is the grid connection that is crucial.
“The grid market is so specialist that it’s vital to speak to a professional who is totally immersed in the industry,” explains Edward Holloway, land agent at Knight Frank.
“We will always speak to Roadnight Taylor to establish whether a site is suitable before our clients start incurring unnecessary fees.
“The sad thing is that many people are unaware that they have been taken in by the scam, as it appears that their project is legitimately unattainable – they may even have been referred by a respected national firm.”
Another issue is that network operators are being inundated with worthless applications, for which they are legally obliged to produce an offer.
“We have to design a grid connection offer even if an application doesn’t have much chance of going forward,” explains Richard Allcock, connections policy engineer at Western Power Distribution (WPD).
“We will help and advise anyone for free: If there’s no chance of it going anywhere, it’s much more helpful for the customer to know that up front, before the application process.”
The problem has become so bad that Government is likely to put a statutory instrument before Parliament this spring, allowing network operators to charge applicants upfront fees for making connection offers – potentially costing thousands of pounds.
“Landowners should therefore try and get their grid application in as soon as possible,” explains Mr Taylor.
“In addition, grid capacity is issued on a first-come, first-served basis, so it’s important to get in early. However, if you don’t produce a strong application for the right capacity of appropriate technology and on the right site, the chances are that you won’t succeed.”
To counter the issue of high up-front fees, Roadnight Taylor has launched its ‘Stop-Go’ study, whereby landowners pay from £250+VAT for a professional evaluation of whether a site has true potential.
“If we recommend proceeding with an application we do it on a no-win, no-fee basis,” explains Mr Taylor.
“If a consultant recommends submitting a grid application, they should be prepared to work at their own risk. If they won’t back their advice in this way, ask yourself why.”