A blog by Bless Kuri, Head of Transmission System Planning and Investment

As we build our network for net zero emissions in the north of Scotland, we work closely with our customers and stakeholders to plan, design and deliver the strategic grid infrastructure investment that is necessary to support the further deployment of renewable electricity; transporting this clean energy to areas of demand all over GB.

Based on feedback from our customers and wider stakeholders; working with National Grid Electricity System Operator (NGESO) and the other GB Transmission Owners (TOs), we continually review the potential transmission network requirements arising from different scenarios for future demand and generation, looking ten years ahead and beyond. This allows us to identify which parts of the network require strengthening, including the need for new network infrastructure, to deliver the investment required to support the UK and Scottish Government’s ambitious decarbonisation targets. By working in collaboration with NGESO and the other TOs, it allows us to collectively prepare for this investment in the most economical way possible for GB electricity bill payers.

We therefore welcome the publication of NGESO’s 2021 Network Options Assessment (NOA) report outlining, based on detailed analysis, which strategic investments should progress to meet the future needs of GB’s electricity transmission system.

For SSEN Transmission, building on the four recommendations in last year’s NOA report, which continue to have a strong “proceed” recommendation against all Future Energy Scenarios, a further two reinforcement projects have been added to the “proceed” list to support climate change net zero emissions targets. These are listed as:

  • East Coast Onshore 275kV Upgrade (ECU2) – upgrading one of the existing double circuit overhead lines running south from Kintore substation to enhance its capacity at the existing operating voltage of 275kV and establishing a new substation near Alyth by 2023.
  • East Coast Onshore 400kV Incremental Reinforcement (ECUP) – a further upgrade of the existing double circuit overhead line running south of Kintore along with upgrades to the existing 275kV lines running between Blackhillock substation (near Keith), Peterhead substation and Kintore substation to operate at 400kV in 2026.
  • North East Scotland to North East England Offshore Link (E4D3) – the construction of a subsea High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) link from Peterhead substation to Drax substation in the north east of England by 2029.
  • North East Scotland to South Humber offshore link (E4L5) – the construction of a second subsea HVDC link from the North East of Scotland (provisionally Peterhead) to a substation within the South Humber area by 2031.
  • Beauly to Blackhillock 400kV Double Circuit Addition (BBNC) – construction of a new 400kV double circuit OHL between Beauly and Blackhillock substations by 2030.
  • Beauly to Loch Buidhe 275kV Reinforcement (BLN2) – replacing the existing Beauly – Shin – Loch Buidhe 132kV double circuit OHL with a higher capacity 275kV double circuit OHL by 2030.

These six projects, the first two of which are being taken forward in RIIO-T2 as part of our ‘certain view’ baseline allowance with the four other projects and associated spend expected to be delivered as part of RIIO-T3, represent an estimated investment of over £5bn. These investments will help unlock the transmission network capacity required to accommodate the expected increase in renewable generation capacity, including ScotWind offshore wind projects, to support the continued transition to net zero. Collectively, these investments will also play a critical role in the green economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, helping build back better.

Appearing in NOA for the last four consecutive years, both the East Coast onshore upgrades (ECU2 and ECUP) are included within our RIIO-T2 Business Plan for the next price control period, running from April 2021 to March 2026. Our plan also includes pre-construction development to support the delivery of both Eastern HVDC link projects (E4D3 and E4L5), creating a subsea super-highway to transfer power to demand centres across GB.

Beauly to Blackhillock (BBNC) and Beauly to Loch Buidhe (BLN2) are new “proceed” recommendations for this year. All projects will be developed in consultation with local communities and wider stakeholders to help inform the design of the network infrastructure, before funding requests are submitted to Ofgem for regulatory approval.

Finally, whilst the NOA identifies a number of projects that meet Ofgem’s eligibility criteria for competition, we note that this does not necessarily mean that these projects will be subject to competition. We continue to believe that the introduction of competition to onshore transmission must be supported by the necessary primary legislation, which has yet to be introduced.

Further information on SSEN Transmission’s progress with the East Coast reinforcements can be found on the following project page: https://www.ssen-transmission.co.uk/information-centre/north-east-east-coast-works/

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