RURAL LANDOWNERS can be conned into paying £1000 or more for 'spurious' applications to connect potential energy generation or battery storage sites to the power network, power consultants Roadnight Taylor have warned.

According to the firm, some sector ‘experts’ were leading landowners to believe that they have a suitable site, and charging up-front fees for electrical grid connection applications that stood no chance of success.

The consequence was not only that landowners could spend £1000 or more on a failed application, but might also miss out on more viable opportunities. Roadnight Taylor’s chief executive Hugh Taylor insisted that annual rents of up to £125,000 were indeed available for sites turned over to battery storage and gas-fired generation – but that boom was causing a "scourge of unscrupulous activity from so-called advisers keen to exploit this lucrative market".

“The grid market is so specialist that it’s vital to speak to a professional who is totally immersed in the industry,” said Knight Frank land agent Edward Holloway. “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.”

A related issue is that network operators are being inundated with worthless applications, for which they are legally obliged to produce an offer.

Connections policy engineer at Western Power Distribution, Richard Allcock, said: “We have to design a grid connection offer even if an application doesn’t have much chance of going forward. 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,” explained 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.”

“If we recommend proceeding with an application we do it on a no-win, no-fee basis,” added 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.”