Distribution & Storage

SSE Pulls Out Of Scotland-Norway Interconnector Project

Scottish company disconnects – other partners to go ahead

SSE has disconnected from its involvement in the NorthConnect interconnector project to build a 1400MW subsea HVDC electricity cable linking Scotland and Norway.

The electricity giant said it intended to focus on its core markets in the UK and Ireland. It blamed a ‘lack of clarity on the regulatory regime around interconnectors’  for its decision to withdraw.

The other members of NorthConnect, Vattenfall, E-CO Energi, Agder Energi and Lyse, said it would not affect their plans, while SSE said that its withdrawal ‘does not affect the deliverability of the project’.

Let’s hope that last part is right. This news, coming hard on the heels of the announcement of the Shetland interconnector delay and Voith Wavegen’s withdrawal from Scotland, is another reminder that Scotland’s renewables revolution needs a lot more joined up thinking and serious investment if it is to reach its full potential.


Previous articles on the NorthConnect project


Delays Mean Viking Energy Will Not Flow South Until 2018

Shetland windfarm to feed power into  the grid by Nov 2018

Shetland’s huge onshore windfarm will begin construction in early 2016 and will be ongoing until 2019. The delay is due to the renegotiation of the size of the development with planners and – more significantly – the delay in the installation of the HVDC interconnector to the mainland. It now looks likely that  the critical 600MW interconnector cable from Shetland will make landfall in Caithness, so further upgrades to transmission lines in the far NE of the mainland may also be required.

Simulated drive-throughThe reduction in the number of turbines from 127 to 103 means the project is now likely to earn £20 million per year for the islanders, down slightly from the original estimate of £23 million.

Viking Energy is a 50-50 joint venture between Scottish & Southern Energy and the local community through a charitable trust. The partnership was granted planning consent for a potential 457 MW  development  by Scottish Ministers in April last year. However, the consent decision is currently being challenged in the Court of Session by Sustainable Shetland, who  have lodged a judicial review.

Viking’s chairman Alan Bryce said that income projections had been reduced after Scottish Ministers had deleted 24 turbines from the original planning application.

However, he added that the company calculated that an additional £6 million a year would be received by crofters and landowners while a further £5 million per annum would be paid out for services sourced locally and in wages to the permanent workforce of around 30 people.


Joint Working Group To Look At Island Transmission Charges

Working together for a fair deal for the Islands

A joint working group between the UK and Scottish Governments to find a solution to the problems of high transmission charges for the Western Isles will shortly appoint consultants to look at the renewable energy potential of the islands.

Transmission chargesThe consultants will review and analyse the business case, economics and cost effectiveness to consumers across the UK of deployment of renewables on the Scottish Islands.

The Intergovernmental Scottish Islands Renewables Steering  Group was established last year and is chaired by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and includes the Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the National Grid, Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission Plc, Ofgem and the relevant island councils.

The group had a second successful meeting yesterday and announced the immanent appointment of the consultants, who will undertake a study on the commercial viability of renewable projects in the islands and their potential contribution to the economy, the barriers to their development, and options for tackling the barriers and report back later this spring.

Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said:

“We know that the islands are the jewel in Scotland’s renewable energy crown, and I am delighted at the work of the Intergovernmental Scottish Islands Renewables Steering Charging Group, which is an excellent example of Governments and stakeholders working together to find a solution to the problem of transmission charges in the Western Isles.

“The planned appointment of consultants to look at the extent of the renewable energy potential we know is present in the Islands, the barriers in place and how we overcome them, is an important step forward.

“This will group is a tangible and positive demonstration of the good working relationships between national and local governments, and a reaffirmation of our commitment to do our best for the islands, working towards our joint ambitions for the future development of renewable energy”.

Edward Davey, UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, said:

“The Scottish Islands are blessed with tremendous tidal, wind and wave renewable resources and we should look to fully utilise this huge potential where we can. I am determined to work closely and constructively with the Scottish Government and other key partners in this important area of work.

“The appointment of consultants will help drive forward work to look at the commercial viability of renewable projects on the Scottish Islands and the overall value for money these projects provide for the UK.”

Cruachan Power Station To Recieve Award

World’s first major pumped storage hydro scheme recognised

Looking down from the upper reservoir to Loch Awe

Looking down from the upper reservoir to Loch Awe
Photo by James Heaton

Today the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) will present an Engineering Heritage Award to Cruachan Power Station, the world’s first high-head reversible pumped-storage power station. Built between 1959 and 1965, Cruachan is one of only four pumped hydroelectric facilities currently operating in the UK.

Cruachan Power Station plays an important  role in helping to balance the nation’s electricity supply by enabling energy to be temporarily stored to meet peaks in demand. This is achieved by managing water resources between a reservoir high on the slopes of Ben Cruachan and Loch Awe, 396 metres below.

Using its reversible turbines, the station uses cheap electricity at times of low grid demand to pump water from Loch Awe to fill the upper reservoir. At times of peak demand the stored water can then be released through the plant’s turbines to generate up to 440MW of electricity for up to 20 hours. When the plant is on ‘spinning reserve’ the generators can be brought to full output within 30 seconds.

The plant can also operate like a conventional hydro-electric station using rainwater from its catchment area – around 10% of its annual generated output is produced in this way.

Cruachan visitor centre is open from February to December. See for more information.

Massive Grid Charges Threaten North Renewables

Pentland and Orkney wave and tidal grid charge estimates hit £100m

New figures from Scottish Renewables have shown that island communities in Scotland’s first Marine Energy Park are continuing to face massive costs to connect their marine energy projects to the grid.

The analysis, published at Tuesday’s (Sept 18th) Marine Energy Conference in Inverness, reveals charges in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters have continued to climb, despite an independent review by Ofgem to reform the charging regime known as TNUoS (Transmission Network Use of System).

Although the review has improved matters for generators on the mainland, charges on the islands are set to rocket, adding significant costs and threatening the economic viability of wave and tidal projects that are in their early stages of development.

Speaking ahead of the Marine Energy Conference, Niall Stuart, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, said: 
“Ofgem’s review was expected to bring down charges for renewable generation given its commitment to ‘facilitate the move to a low carbon energy sector’. However, we are seeing charges on the islands continue to increase, dwarfing those on the mainland.

“The level of charges for Orkney Waters is adding significant costs to wave and tidal projects and can only hold back investment in our world-leading marine energy sector.

“We have to remember that our islands are where some of our best natural resources are and if we are to meet important climate change and renewable energy targets we must find a way to ensure wind, wave and tidal projects can generate electricity for homes and businesses across Scotland.”

The new figures are estimated calculations based on annual grid charges for wave and tidal projects. Estimates of the projected annual connection charges for the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters area have increased from £56m last year to £107m in 2020.  This contrasts with an annual subsidy of some £2m if these projects were to be built in the south west of England – the UK’s other Marine Energy Park.

While the mainland of Pentland Firth has seen a decrease of £4.6m in annual connection charges, the Orkney Waters area has seen a massive rise because electricity generators on the islands are required to pay for ‘local works’ which includes expensive undersea grid cabling from the Scottish mainland to the Orkney islands.

This year’s estimates are also based on a larger grid cable which will be required to transport the increasing capacity of renewable electricity due to be generated in the Orkney waters from wave and tidal devices.

Ofgem’s independent review, Project TransmiT, was launched in 2010 with the view to ensure that we move to a low carbon energy sector whilst continuing to provide value for money to existing and future consumers.

Mr Stuart added: “We would like to see the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change use his powers to adjust the transmission charges and ensure costs do not deter renewable energy generation in the north of Scotland, home of the world’s leading wave and tidal sector.”
The figures are published in Swimming Against the Tide? Update on Grid Charges for Wave and Tidal Generators in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters which is available from Scottish Renewables website.

Scottish Renewables will also publish a new report Marine Milestones 2011/2012 at the conference.

Related News

Ofgem facing legal challenge over ‘obscenely unfair’ grid charges