Data Centres Sucking Up Power could lead to Ban on New Homes in West London

And not just West London, the Worlds Largest Concentration of Data Centres are Immediately to the West of London. By the way for 90% of ‘data centres’ the primary purpose of the use is not data storage, but transactions, analysis, AI, so why can anyone claim they are b8? The problem of course is the short term nature of regulation of the Electricity Act (like Water) and OFFGEM with 5 year horizons only.

Guardian

West London faces a de facto ban on new homes for over a decade because the electricity grid has run out of capacity.

Housebuilders have been told it could take until 2035 to get new developments in Hillingdon, Ealing and Hounslow hooked up to the electricity network because it lacks the capacity to serve them.

Energy companies and regulators are scrambling to fix the problem while Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has ordered officials to monitor the situation.

The holdup promises to delay a string of schemes in London, where a typical property costs £526,000. 

Builders have raised fears that the issue may not be confined to the capital. The problem is understood to affect some areas in the Thames Valley as well.

In a letter to developers, the Greater London Authority blamed the issues in west London on a string of planned data centres that are set to hoover up huge amounts of power.

The area is a popular location for these centres because it neighbours internet “superhighway” cables that run along the M4 motorway and into the Atlantic ocean — dubbed the “Silicon Corridor”. One data centre can consume the same amount of power as up to 10,000 homes.

This has resulted in some developers being told they cannot connect housing projects to the grid until as late as 2035, the Financial Times reported, with data centres prioritised under a “first come, first serve” system.

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN), which serves part of the affected area, and the National Grid are looking at upgrading the network but this is expected to take several years.

SSEN insisted there was no “ban” on new developments but the warning that it cannot connect new schemes amounted to a de facto moratorium until the issue can be resolved.

It has sparked concerns that a spate of data centres being built across the South East will gum up local power grids and hamper efforts to tackle the housing crisis. A source at one major housebuilder said his company, one of Britain’s biggest, was already reviewing potential sites amid fears they could face similar problems.

“It is quite worrying,” the source added. “We are concerned this might be a problem in other areas as well.”

The Home Builders Federation (HBF) said that, along with environmental rules imposed by green quango Natural England, problems with electricity network capacity threatened to further derail the Government’s target to build 300,000 homes per year.

A spokesman added: “Where the impact of new build housing is minimal, preventing housing delivery as a solution to these issues is not proportionate.

“If we are to deliver much-needed housing, we would urge the Government to ensure its agencies and utility providers are meeting their responsibilities.”

It is understood that options being looked at by SSEN and the National Grid include negotiating with data centre firms to allow housing developments with smaller power requirements to move ahead in the queue.

They could also encourage more battery storage operators to set up in the area or incentivise homes and businesses to use less power during certain times of the day through so-called smart tariffs.

Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, has ordered Government officials to monitor the situation, according to a letter seen by the Daily Telegraph. Energy regulator Ofgem is considering changes to grid connection rules to make it easier for housing developments to move forward. These proposals and other measures are expected to be outlined in further detail by the Government next week.  

On Thursday Labour’s Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, also said he was “very concerned” that the network problems were holding up delivery of “thousands of much needed homes”.

“The Mayor’s team is working closely with the network providers responsible, to seek solutions to mitigate the potential delays and unlock the issue,” Mr Khan’s spokesman said.

The Energy Networks Association, which represents the UK and Ireland’s energy networks businesses, insisted the problems in West London were an “isolated circumstance caused by… demand from a localised growth in data centres, far higher than forecast”.

A spokesman added: “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. 

“There is significant collaboration across the industry, the Greater London Authority and with the housing developers themselves to address these challenges, but a long-term approach to investment is needed.

“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.”

A spokesman for National Grid ESO (electricity system operator) said: “This is an issue with connection agreements at a local distribution network level. 

“The ESO is actively working with all the parties involved to find solutions to make the connections happen.”

Dumb Sunak To Scrap the Wrong Green Belt Test

He of course should have said ‘exceptional circumstances; for local plans. Please understand a policy first. VSC only applies to planning applications. So where will the other 1 1/2 million houses needed go. Or will will all have to move to non Green Belt land around Rishis house in Richmondshire?

Guardian

Rishi Sunak’s vow to block housebuilding on the green belt has been labelled a “desperate” bid for Tory members’ votes, with experts warning that the move would significantly worsen the UK’s housing crisis and push up living costs.

With just days until ballots drop in the leadership contest to replace Boris Johnson, and behind Liz Truss in the polls, Sunak said new property development should take place squarely on “brownfield, brownfield, brownfield”.

His pledge to the party’s grassroots was that a blanket rejection would be issued for councils that ask to change green belt boundaries in order to release land for housing.

Sunak’s campaign contrasted the announcement with rival Truss, who in May 2019 as chief secretary to the Treasury suggested 1m homes should be built on the London green belt and around other “growing cities” to help more under-40s buy their first property.

The green belt – covering 12.4% of England, according to the government’s latest figures – was labelled “extremely precious” by the former chancellor, who accused councils of “circumventing the views of residents”.

He claimed more homes could be built while protecting “our most precious landscape” with space for 1m homes across brownfield sites – particularly in north-west England, the West Midlands and Yorkshire.

The Richmond MP, who was reportedly granted planning permission last year to extend his North Yorkshire home on to agricultural land to make space for a pool, gym and tennis court, said “inner-city densification” would also be key to increasing housing stock.

Since 2006, the green belt has shrunk by about 1%, according to analysis by the House of Commons library. Sunak’s team vowed to stop councils appealing to the Planning Inspectorate to declassify patches of green belt land by updating their local plans. He pledged to end this practice by updating the National Planning Policy Framework, and scrapping the possibility of “inappropriate” development on the green belt “in very special circumstances”.

The promise drew ire from Robert Colvile, who helped co-author the December 2019 Conservative manifesto and runs the Centre for Policy Studies thinktank set up by Margaret Thatcher. He said Sunak’s and Truss’s housing plans “pander to the fantasy that we can build all the houses we need on brownfield far away from where any Tory voters might see it”.

The green belt has reduced by only 194 sq km since 2014 and at current rates it would take a millennium to be covered, according to Colvile. He added: “Britain has a housing crisis. It is crippling our economy. It is blighting the lives of a generation. Yet more nimbyism is emphatically not the answer.”

Other libertarian thinktanks condemned the move. The Institute for Economic Affairs said it would “flush aspiration down the drain” and that planning restrictions “significantly push up the cost of living, while making homeownership unattainable, forcing people into lower-paying jobs and increasing commute times and pollution”. The Adam Smith Institute also said building homes where people want to live and work was “vital if we want to turbo-charge growth and reduce the cost of living”.

Giles Wilkes, a former special adviser to Theresa May, called it a “pretty desperate and regressive move”.

The Conservative leader of Swindon council, David Renard, opposed Sunak’s move. He said: “There is a consensus that the country needs to build 300,000 homes per year and that we are currently short of building those numbers.

“Any centrally imposed numbers or locations on each local authority are not welcome as it is for councils to determine what the housing need is in their areas and to decide where best to locate those new homes.”

However, Johnson’s proposed planning reforms that threatened green belt were “clearly a key factor in the loss of Chesham and Amersham to the Lib Dems” in June 2021, said Martin Tett, Tory leader of Buckinghamshire council, who added that Sunak’s pledge would be “very welcome to local members”.

CPRE, the countryside charity, calculated that more than 250,000 homes are currently proposed to be built on land removed from the green belt – more than four times as many as in 2013 – and said “piece by piece, local authorities are eating into protected countryside, using blunt, numerical targets that fail to deliver affordable and social housing”.

Tom Fyans, its director of campaigns and policy, said: “Applications to change green belt boundaries in order to release land for housing have soared since 2013. This is despite the pressing need to revitalise our countryside so that it can suck up carbon, boost wildlife and provide much-needed space for recreation in nature. We wholeheartedly welcome Sunak’s brownfield-first approach to planning.”