£7bn transmission investment to meet Scotland’s Net Zero ambitions

As one of Scotland’s transmission network owners alongside SSEN Transmission, SP Energy have welcomed the publication of the Electricity System Operator’s Networks Option Assessment (NOA) 2021/22.

The over £7bn investment package in new transmission infrastructure in Scotland outlined in NOA 2021/22 demonstrates the scale of strategic infrastructure investment needed in Scotland and the wider GB transmission system to meet Net Zero targets.

In recognition of our work designing and developing key strategic infrastructure to help Scotland achieve its climate change ambition, the process has recommended we continue our work investing in vital transmission projects above the baseline outlined in the transmission price control.

The transmission network connects major onshore and offshore renewables into the electricity grid and has enabled Scotland’s renewable electricity capacity to quadruple since 2007.

In the past 25 years, Scotland has installed around 8GW of onshore wind capacity, and is now looking to more than double this onshore capacity before 2030. The Scottish Government is currently consulting on its onshore wind ambitions, with proposals that a further 8-12 GW of onshore wind could be realised in Scotland by 2030.

Offshore, Scotland’s capacity is expected to grow significantly with almost 25GW of offshore potential capacity outlined following the recent ScotWind leasing round announcement from Crown Estate Scotland. Combined, this means there is the potential for up to 37GW of additional renewable electricity to be connected in the next decade or so.

To match this growing renewable ambition and ensure the projects can continue at the pace and scale required, there will be a continual increase in the need both onshore and offshore for large-scale grid infrastructure projects to ensure the power generated can get to where it is needed.

Given the networks importance we, alongside SSEN Transmission, are calling to be involved from the earliest possible stages in the strategic planning of new and extended renewable developments to ensure suitable and economic grid solutions are designed and available when needed.

In order to deliver the scale of renewable potential identified, the network operators need to be fully supported with a regulatory framework, with provisions for agile and timely decision-making for strategic grid infrastructure, working in coordination with well evidenced policy drivers and efficient consenting and planning processes with fixed timescales. .

Scott Mathieson, our Network Planning and Regulation Director: “The most recent NOA recognises the key role we and other transmission operators will play in supporting Scotland to achieve its Net Zero ambition. In order to realise this and to benefit from the economic opportunity this will bring we need an innovative and joined up approach across industry, Government and the Regulator to ensure opportunities to deploy crucial renewable energy projects are not missed, but accelerated.

“In 2019, the Electricity System Operator’s Future Energy Scenarios modelling predicted 15GW of electricity would need to be transferred between Scotland and England in 2035. In just 2 years, this modelling has now increased this estimate to approximately 30GW in 2035 – a five-fold increase on existing transfer capability and double the 2019 predictions. Our strategic network investments must support projects in development and those not yet realised.

“With the right support, we stand ready to develop and deliver the electricity infrastructure – offshore subsea cables and onshore overhead lines, pylons, cables and substations – that will provide the backbone of a Net Zero energy system for years to come.”

Rob McDonald, Managing Director of SSEN Transmission, said: “This year’s NOA report fires the starting gun for over £7bn of investment in grid infrastructure in Scotland which is critical to enable the growth of renewable electricity and delivering net zero, including the first step in unlocking the vast increase in offshore wind expected following the recently announced outcome of the ScotWind leasing round.

“These investments will unlock huge economic opportunities for Scotland and throughout GB, supporting hundreds of skilled jobs in the development and construction phases.  Due to the scale of investment required in grid infrastructure, we believe there is a clear opportunity for Governments and industry to work together to encourage inward investment in UK supply chain manufacturing and skills development.

“In enabling the connection of indigenous, clean renewable electricity generation, these investments will also be crucial in reducing the UK’s dependence on volatile global wholesale gas markets.

“We now look forward to working constructively with Government, Ofgem, the wider industry and our stakeholders to provide the timely, coordinated and efficient investment in grid infrastructure that is key to our collective net zero ambitions.”