As we start a new decade, it is a good time to reflect on our sustainability achievements during 2019 and look forward to our plans for the years ahead.

We had another busy year during 2019, kicked off with the completion of the Caithness Moray link that unlocks the potential for the transfer of up to 1200MW of renewable electricity from Caithness in the North of Scotland to areas of demand further south and beyond. Our network now supports over 6GW of clean renewable electricity, almost double the capacity of a decade ago capable of generating enough electricity to power the equivalent of 5 million homes. 

Throughout 2019 we actively consulted our stakeholders to develop our Business Plan for our next price control period, RIIO-T2 (2021-2026). We submitted our final RIIO-T2 Business Plan, titled ‘A Network for Net Zero’ at the end of last year. This ambitious plan is structured around five clear goals;

  • transport the renewable electricity that powers 10 million homes,
  • aim for 100% transmission network reliability for homes and businesses
  • deliver every connection on time,
  • a one third reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on its network,
  • deliver £100 million in efficiencies and innovation; and

Our business plan sets out our commitments for playing our role in delivering the UK and Scottish Governments' net zero emissions target and places sustainability at the heart of our business.

Last year was certainly a year for recognition of our sustainability credentials, where we received Sustainability awards at Scottish, UK and even international stage. We received Green Energy and International Green Apple awards for achievements in protecting and promoting the natural environment and specifically for our innovative approach to delivering Biodiversity Net Gain on new capital investment projects and a first of its kind biodiversity site optioneering toolkit, which also received recognition at the 2019 Scottish Green Energy Awards.

In October we became the first UK transmission owner to energise sulphur hexafluoride gas (SF₆) free technology at our Dunbeath 132kV substation. The SF₆ gas free circuit breakers installed are the first of their kind in the UK which we are hoping will demonstrate to the wider industry that there is a viable alternative to SF6 out there, and one which they may consider using in similar scenarios in the future. The technology has been developed by Siemens, using a combination of vacuum and clean air technology to provide the same level of performance and reliability, without the need for SF₆ gas and with no Global Warming Potential (GWP).

Rounding off the year, we were delighted to be awarded environmental ‘leadership’ status by our energy regulator, Ofgem, for the second year in a row through the Environmental Discretionary Reward (EDR). As part of the current transmission price control, RIIO-T1, we and the other GB transmission owners are incentivised to demonstrate a strategic environmental focus in helping facilitate the transition to a low carbon economy. Ofgem has confirmed we achieved a leadership score in the following five categories: ‘strategic understanding', ‘whole system planning’, ‘connections’, ‘innovation’, and ‘non-GHG environmental issues’, obtaining a proactive score in ‘business greenhouse gases’, and an Engaged score in ‘network development approach’, which has resulted in a financial award of £1m.

We will now look to build on this success, working hard to address the areas of improvement Ofgem has identified to help us realise our objective of achieving leadership status in all EDR assessment categories.

Looking ahead, we have a critical role to play in helping the UK and Scottish Government’s meet their commitments to achieve net zero emissions.  As well as facilitating future growth in renewable electricity, over the coming year we will continue to pursue leadership in Sustainability by setting our science-based carbon reduction target, which is consistent with the Net Zero emission pathway.  As part of this, we will continue to introduce further SF6 alternatives on our network and apply our Biodiversity Net Gain toolkit.

We will continue to strive to work beyond this year’s achievements, working collaboratively with our customers, our partners and across the industry to continue to drive real change and begin implementation of our RIIO-T2 Sustainability Action Plan.

To read more about our Sustainability Strategy and Plans please visit: https://www.ssen-transmission.co.uk/sustainability-and-environment/

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