Green light for £1.2bn subsea cable project

11 July 2014
By Edd Gent
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An animation of the operation to lay sub-sea cable from Caithness to Moray [Credit: SSE]

An animation of the operation to lay sub-sea cable from Caithness to Moray [Credit: SSE]

A newly approved £1.2bn undersea electricity cable in Scotland will connect 1.2GW of new renewable electricity generation to the grid by 2018.

The project by SSE will run a cable between the Caithness and Moray areas of northern Scotland linking the electricity grid on either side of the Moray Firth, which will connect planned wind farm projects in the area to the country's energy grid.

The company’s Scottish Hydro Electricity Transmission unit is working on the scheme, which represents the largest investment in the region's electricity network since the hydro era of the 1950s.

Ofgem said although it has approved the project, it is studying the financial details of the scheme if it finds the project can be built for less it will lower the amount of funding allowed to complete the link. The regulator said it will consult on the project's funding proposals in the autumn.

Ofgem senior partner for transmission Martin Crouch said: "This is a major step forward for an essential upgrade to the high voltage grid so that more renewable energy can connect to the networks.

"We have already started on the next phase of checking SHE's spending plans and we will ensure it completes the work as efficiently as possible so that consumers pay a fair price for this."

The regulator also moved today to cut transmission charges for green energy generators, saying that from April 1 2016 charges to these suppliers from the transmission operator, National Grid, will more closely reflect their use of the network.

The watchdog said this will benefit suppliers of wind or solar energy who do not constantly use the grid as transmission charges account for around 4 per cent of the average household energy bill.

Crouch said: "The changes to transmission charging 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."

Work on the new subsea cable is expected to begin in the next few months, with more than 600 jobs being created, according to Scottish Hydro Electricity Transmission.

Mark Mathieson, managing director of networks at the energy company, said: "As a responsible developer, we have worked with communities and other stakeholders to make sure that we have the best solution for connecting renewable energy to the transmission system.

"I am very pleased that it has been given the green light and we will now work withOfgem 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."

Michael Rieley, senior policy manager at the industry body Scottish Renewables, 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".

Rieley added changes to the transmission charging regime were "a long-awaited, and much welcomed, recognition of the value of the Scottish renewable energy sector".

He said: "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."

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