Urgency needed to create capacity in Scotland’s electricity infrastructure
12 September 2023
Scotland’s electricity infrastructure urgently needs more capacity if national net zero targets are to be met. That is the view of a Holyrood Committee in a new report published today.
The report also says that a national conversation is needed, led by the Scottish Government, on what creating this increased capacity will mean for the people of Scotland and its different regions.
Phasing out fossil fuels in favour of more renewables will mean more windfarms, solar panels, storage facilities, pylons, powerlines, as well as pipelines and related apparatus for electrically generated “green” hydrogen. As a renewable energy ‘hotspot’, Scotland will attract a large part of this new development.
The report by the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee, follows a short inquiry looking at Scotland’s electricity infrastructure – the ‘hardware’ needed to make, move, and store electricity and considers how well-prepared it is for the energy revolution needed to help Scotland achieve its climate change goals.
The report also stresses the need for better intergovernmental relations between the UK and Scottish Governments so that good communication and coordination on energy takes place across the devolved-reserved divide.
Speaking as the report launched, Committee Convener Edward Mountain MSP said:
“In this inquiry, we considered the enablers and inhibitors of Scotland’s energy ambitions. Everyone we heard from agrees that much more electricity will need to be on the Grid for us to meet our climate change goals.
“Urgent and bold changes are needed to both increase the Grid’s overall capacity and to speed up the rate of Grid connection. This is why we are calling for a national conversation to take place which explains clearly how we are going to take carbon out of the energy supply, the choices available on how to get there and what this could mean for people in their day-to-day lives.
“Investment in anticipation of need must be the Grid’s guiding principle. Apart from anything else, this will send a positive and confident signal to potential investors in our renewables sector.
“We also need a more agile planning system that reaches decisions on electricity or renewables projects more quickly - without removing any of the fundamental rights of individuals and communities to have their say and to influence the process. No one benefits from an uncertain, cumbersome planning process.
“Electricity infrastructure has a vital role to play as we face the climate emergency. But unless urgent action is taken by governments on both sides of the border, regulators and operators alike, it may well become an opportunity lost.”
Some key recommendations in the report include;
- A Scottish Government plan, produced in conjunction with network operators, Ofgem and the National Grid which outlines what development will be needed and where it is likely to go, so that the public can see upfront what changes are likely and the reasons for them.
- Prudential investment ahead of need as the guiding principle for Grid investment, in order to build the increased electricity capacity, we need to hit net zero.
- A plan of action to speed up Grid Connection. The report says it is unacceptable that developers are asked to wait upwards of a decade for connection.
- Simplification of the planning system for applications for renewable generation or electricity transmission, to streamline and simplify the process for all.
- Calling into question whether charging for transmission based on remoteness is consistent with net zero goals and asking Ofgem to send a clear signal now on future policy in this area.
The committee issued a targeted call for views at the launch of the inquiry directed at key energy sector stakeholders with a particular interest in electricity infrastructure.
Throughout the inquiry, the Committee held informal discussions with representatives of Small or Medium Enterprises in the renewables energy field in Scotland and took part in a visit hosted by Scottish Power of their control room in Glasgow to see how the network they cover is managed in real time and of the UK’s largest onshore windfarm at Whitelee, South of Glasgow.
The Committee held four evidence sessions hearing from two panels of key energy industry stakeholders and experts; the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem); Andrew Bowie MP, Minister for Nuclear and Networks along with supporting officials from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ), UK Government; and Neil Gray MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy.
The inquiry examined what electricity infrastructure will be needed to realise the ambitions set out in the Scottish Government's Draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan. The Plan was published in January 2023 with the overall aim of setting out how the Scottish Government aims to ensure Scotland has clean, secure and affordable energy in future and meets its climate change targets.
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