A new underwater cable which will link more than 100 miles of subsea along the Moray Firth in Scotland and will provide a huge boost for renewable energy in the region has been given the go-ahead with a projected cost of £1.2 billion energy regulator Ofgem have announced.
Ofgem, who have approved the link, also announced new plans to reduce charges for renewable energy generators stating that from the 1st of April 2016 the charges from transmission operator National Grid will closely reflect their use of the network. The industry watchdog stated that this will benefit wind and solar energy suppliers who do not constantly use the grid.
Speaking at the announcement Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond said “this is welcome news for the Scottish electricity sector and consumers. They support the transition to a low-carbon economy by encouraging renewable generation in the areas of highest resource and ensure Scotland continues to play a vital role in delivering security of electricity supply across these islands.”
The project which is due to be completed in 2018 and will connect up to 1.2 gigawatts of renewable energy represents the largest investment in the regions electricity infrastructure in over 50 years.
Project development which is being handled by Scottish Hydro Electricity Transmission (a subsidiary of SSE) will begin before the end of 2014 and is expected to create more than 600 jobs.
Managing Director of the networks division of the energy company Mark Mathieson said “we have the best solution for connecting renewable energy to the transmission system”.
He also stated “‘I am very pleased that it has been given the green light and we will now work with Ofgem on the remaining details and focus on ensuring that the new link is constructed in a safe and responsible way so that the benefits it will bring in unlocking renewable sources of energy for decades to come are realised.”
Mr Salmond said: “The £1.2 billion investment by Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission will ensure continued progress towards our renewable energy ambitions, play a role in supporting future island generation and support hundreds of jobs during construction. It also underlines once again the essential role that renewable energy in Scotland has to play in meeting the UK’s long-term energy requirements.”
He also stated that Ofgem’s decision to “reduce the level of discriminatory grid charges for electricity generators in Scotland is particularly welcome.”
Martin Crouch, Ofgem senior partner for transmission said the new subsea cable is a “major step forward for an essential upgrade to the high voltage grid so that more renewable energy can connect to the networks”.
He added that the changes to the transmission charging scheme are “the result of an extensive consultation process and detailed analysis. The new arrangements more accurately reflect the costs of Britain’s diverse energy generation and will lead to lower costs overall for consumers.”
Senior policy manager at the industry body Scottish Renewables Michael Rieley said the subsea link would “significantly reduce bottlenecks on the system, and could unleash over 1.2GW of renewable energy projects in the north of Scotland which is enough energy to power the equivalent of 637,575 homes.”
He also added changes to the charging scheme are “a long-awaited, and much welcomed, recognition of the value of the Scottish renewable energy sector”.
“The changes will help create a more level playing field between generators on the Scottish mainland and those further south, which is crucial if we are to make the transition to a low-carbon energy system while also providing value for consumers. Despite our disappointment that the new charging regime won’t be implemented until 2016, four years later than originally estimated, this announcement from Ofgem is undoubtedly good news for the sector.”
Lang Banks, director of environmental body WWF Scotland, said: “Given the urgent need to clean up the UK’s power sector, cut climate emissions and keep the lights on, it’s bizarre we’ve had a system in place that has effectively penalised some of the nation’s best locations for generating renewable energy.
“While it’s a pity that the scheme won’t now start until 2016, we very much welcome the news that an agreement has been reached to improve the electricity charging regime. This decision should help to unlock much more of Scotland’s massive renewable energy potential.
“Scotland already generates about a third of the UK’s entire renewable electricity needs and has the potential to contribute more in the future now that this agreement is in place.”
As the renewable energy industry in our country continues to grow along with the infrastructure required and the advances in technology this makes the ambitious targets set by the Scottish Government more likely to be met. The subsea link and cost reductions will enhance the industry’s ability to reach this target of producing 100% of our energy needs from renewable sources.
SSE has also announced it has invested over £4.5 million in community projects, the bulk being in Scotland, in the last financial year. The energy company stated that 366 not for profit groups benefited from community investment funds created through its hydro and onshore wind developments.
Biggar Museum Trust received the largest individual award of £650,000 from SSE’s Clyde wind farm fund to part finance a new visitor centre.
Other awards included a £400,000 grant to support Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) studies across Highland schools, and a £75,000 grant to enable the community buy-out of Aberfeldy town hall in Perthshire.
Skills and employment projects received more than £1 million in grants including £267,000 to an employment programme in South Lanarkshire and over £110,000 to three local apprenticeship projects operating in the Cairngorms National Park and Sutherland.
SSE chief executive Alistair Phillips-Davies said: “A sum as large as £4.5m will deliver a positive impact, but it’s not simply about the value of our funding – how we do it matters too. By working with communities in genuine partnership, I believe we can support local decision-makers to ensure these funds can go even further and deliver sustainable benefits to the community year after year.”
The figures were included in SSE’s first community investment annual review. It said that for every pound awarded, recipients sourced an additional two pounds in match-funding from other sources, raising the overall impact of the funding to £13.5m.
In Scotland community benefit contributions are voluntary which when we first made our way in the industry surprised us. However from the outset we committed to make a contribution on each of our projects which was developed and have not changed since.
This means that ILI Renewable Energy has contributed over £800,000 to community projects through our renewable energy developments since 2011.
We believe that the importance in making these contributions cannot be underestimated. Not only does it promote renewable energy but more importantly it makes a positive memorable contribution to the local communities in which our projects have been developed. Our legacy first and foremost will be clean renewable energy however we are also very proud to be adding to this with an economic boost for local charities, groups, and projects.