A letter from the Greater London Authority (GLA) warned housebuilders that three London boroughs are already rejecting planning applications because the grid is low on capacity.
According to a report in the Financial Times, planning applications of 25 homes or more are currently being affected in the boroughs of Hillingdon, Ealing and Hounslow, and it could take until 2035 to bulk capacity back up.
In those boroughs, ‘major new applicants to the distribution network … including housing developments, commercial premises and industrial activities, will have to wait several years to receive new electricity connections,’ according to the GLA’s note.
The Energy Networks Association, which represents the UK and Ireland’s energy networks businesses, has blamed the shortages on the rapid expansion of data centres, which use huge quantities of electricity, in some cases enough for an entire town, to power servers.
A spokesperson for the association said: ‘The constraints faced in west London are an isolated circumstance caused by a quick and concentrated expansion of demand from a localised growth in data centres, far higher than forecast. Electricity networks are using every tool available, including deploying innovative technologies, to accelerate connections and ensure that future demands are managed as efficiently as possible.’
The association said a ‘long-term approach’ to investment is needed, adding: ‘We’re in dialogue with Ofgem to make changes to their reactive regime and ensure that where new infrastructure is needed network companies can build it once and build it right.’
An Ealing council spokesperson said the authority was ‘deeply concerned’ by the situation and it was reviewing how electricity capacity constraints would impact its substantial housing development programme.
They said: ‘In the middle of an affordable housing crisis in Ealing and across London, it is vital that we are able to continue building new genuinely affordable homes to let. We have requested urgent meetings with the Greater London Authority and government ministers to discuss how this issue can be resolved and will be monitoring developments closely.’
The London Mayor is concerned that any moratorium on new housing developments will lead to the capital missing its housing targets.
A City Hall spokesperson said: ‘The Mayor is very concerned that electricity capacity constraints in three west London boroughs are creating a significant challenge for developers securing timely connections to the electricity network, which could affect the delivery of thousands of much-needed homes.
‘Sadiq [Khan] wrote to the government weeks ago requesting a meeting to discuss electricity capacity in west London but the request was declined. In the midst of a housing crisis, he is calling on ministers to work with him to resolve this issue urgently.’
The GLA, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks, and the National Grid are working on solutions to unblock development.