SSEN Transmission welcomes today’s publication by Ofgem of the Skye Initial Needs Case consultation, which paves the way for plans to secure future electricity supplies in the area as well as supporting the growth in renewables and the transition to net zero emissions.
In Ofgem’s initial assessment of proposals to replace the existing Fort Augustus-Skye overhead electricity transmission line, the regulator has agreed with the need for the project and that the proposed solution is reasonable to support the forecast growth of renewable electricity generation along its route.
The existing overhead line is fast approaching the end of its operational life and is in urgent need of intervention. Its planned replacement is therefore essential to maintain network reliability and security of supply to homes and businesses along its route, as well as to the Western Isles, which is primarily supplied by two electricity distribution subsea cables from Ardmore point.
To enable the connection of new renewable electricity looking to connect to the transmission network along its route, SSEN Transmission is proposing to increase the capacity of the replacement line, supporting the UK and Scottish Governments transition to net zero emissions. The existing line has already exceeded its capacity limit, preventing the connection of new renewable electricity in the area.
Given the scale of the project, stakeholders have made it clear the replacement line should anticipate future electricity generation looking to connect in the years ahead, avoiding an iterative approach to network development and associated local impacts and disruption this would cause. This ‘do it once do it right’ approach, which SSEN Transmission’s proposed solution achieves, will greatly reduce the need for additional major works in the future, responding positively to stakeholders asks.
At an estimated cost of around £400m, the Skye reinforcement project would be one of the most significant energy investments in the West Highlands since power was first brought to the area in the 1950’s.
Rob McDonald, Managing Director of SSEN Transmission, said:
“The replacement of the Fort Augustus-Skye overhead line will be one of the most significant energy investments in the West Highlands since the original line was installed from the 1950’s onwards. We are really excited to build on our heritage of powering the highlands and islands in helping secure the future electricity requirements in the area.
“We welcome Ofgem’s recognition of the need for the Skye reinforcement project and its acceptance that our proposed solution is likely to be optimal based on the background generation assumptions underpinning the need to increase the capacity of the replacement line.
“Throughout the development of the Skye reinforcement project, our stakeholders have been clear that they want to avoid an iterative approach to network development, minimising future construction impacts.
“We now look forward to working constructively with Ofgem and wider stakeholders to take forward our proposed solution, which in anticipating the forecast growth in renewables in the area delivers for our stakeholders by reducing the need for future works, as we continue to deliver a network for net zero emissions in the north of Scotland.”
SSEN Transmission continues to progress the detailed design for the replacement line and expects to submit its Section 37 Planning Application to Scottish Ministers next year and encourages Ofgem to ensure its regulatory assessment aligns with the planning process to allow decision making in parallel, avoiding the delays sequential planning then regulatory approvals would result in.
SSEN Transmission’s investment in the Skye reinforcement project is part of the SSE Group’s recently announced Net Zero Acceleration Programme, which will see £12.5bn invested in the five years to 2026, or £7m every day. SSEN Transmission alone expects to invest around £4bn over this period as it delivers a network for net zero in the north of Scotland.