SSEN to deliver £2million of strategic network investment to accelerate a green economic recovery on the Western Isles
Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) Distribution is set to accelerate £2m of investment in the local electricity network on the Western Isles, to aid a green recovery and provide additional capacity for low carbon projects that will help deliver net zero.
The investment programme will be focussed on upgrading the Clachan Primary Substation in North Uist, which connects to the island of Berneray in the north, and south across Benbecula towards South Uist, and will see the existing transformer replaced with two upgraded counterparts, which will increase the capacity of the network serving around 1,300 homes and businesses on the islands.
By creating 6.31MW of additional network capacity, this accelerated investment will support future growth and facilitate the progress of green projects and low carbon technologies across local communities on North Uist, South Uist and Benbecula.
Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) is commencing a programme to replace small ‘loch class’ vessels serving the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services network. In line with Scottish Government climate change commitments, the programme aims to deliver low emission vessels utilising the latest proven battery and onshore charging technologies.
Jim Anderson, Director of Vessels at Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited said:
“This is welcome investment in island energy infrastructure by SSEN and potentially improves the feasibility of using electricity as an alternative to diesel fuel for new vessels. The viability of bringing more fully electric or hybrid ferries into the fleet will depend largely on the grid capacity of the islands they serve. Environmental considerations are a core part of our vessel planning process and we are committed to exploring new fuel technologies to reduce the impact of the maritime sector on the climate and help create a net zero emissions country.”
SSEN’s investment at the Clachan site will also ensure that the network is ready to support the islands’ transition to electric vehicles (EV), with increased EV demand expected on the islands of North Uist, South Uist and Benbecula.
In particular, the green recovery investment by SSEN will support the North Uist Development Company’s (NUDC) core aim to develop a sustainable and viable community, through the delivery of key development projects.
NUDC’s recent projects have included Uist Wind and being involved in Uist Energy in Motion, a project led by Urachadh Uibhist in collaboration with Community Energy Scotland and Cothrom, educating the local community about carbon emissions and how electric vehicles (EVs) could reduce carbon footprint on the islands, developing an owners’ forum for EV owners and encouraging future development and installation of two electric fast charge points on the island.
Dr Ameena Camps, Project Delivery Manager, North Uist Development Company, said:
"NUDC submitted a suite of grid improvement options to the Green Recovery call for evidence, working in collaboration with Coimhearsnachd Bharraidh agus Bhatarsaidh Ltd, Community Energy Scotland and Stòras Uibhist. We are very pleased SSEN will be investing at the Clachan Primary Substation, which is most certainly a step in the right direction to enable the realisation of the community's low-carbon transition aspirations in line with developing local energy plans. I hope this marks the start of a collaborative journey in partnership with SSEN to support further improvements across the Outer Hebrides with far-reaching benefits including reduced carbon emissions and alleviation of fuel poverty”.
This investment in the Western Isles is part of a £41m programme of strategic investment by SSEN which will unlock over 122MW of additional capacity across the north of Scotland and central southern England to drive green economic growth, create skilled jobs, and support the deployment of low carbon projects.
As part of scheme, SSEN will be installing approximately 1,000 low voltage monitors at key points across its two distribution network areas, providing near real-time visibility in areas where high levels of electricity demand from increased uptake of electric vehicles and electric heating is predicted. This will enable the network operator to better manage local infrastructure, identifying how best to optimise capacity.
SSEN's plans are part of a £300m programme of investment announced on Monday (24th May) by the energy regulator Ofgem.
Chris Burchell, Managing Director, SSEN Distribution, said:
“We are determined to play our full part in addressing the twin challenges of the economic and social recovery from coronavirus and the impending climate emergency, where local electricity networks will play a vital role. With COP26 on the horizon, today’s investment demonstrates how collaborative action and regulatory flexibility can help us achieve this aim and power change for our customers and society.
“The green recovery scheme provides a blueprint for future agile investment in our networks in the coming years, where rapid progress will be required to keep pace with net zero. By undertaking £40 million in strategic network investment now, we are helping unlock innovative low carbon projects at the right time, boosting local economies and supporting communities to achieve their net zero ambitions.”
Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport Michael Matheson said:
“Scotland is wholly committed to becoming a net zero economy by 2045 and doing so in a way that is just and fair for all. I strongly welcome this investment in Scotland’s energy networks, which will help our progress towards decarbonisation while ensuring that the economic and social benefits of the energy transition are realised across the country.
“We have worked closely with our stakeholders to support the strong and successful bids from Scotland’s network companies for this substantial funding. These projects and investments will support further innovation in green energy, unlocking capacity in our networks to support electrification of transport as well as other technologies like battery storage, renewables and heat pumps.
“This announcement by Ofgem is the product of an agile approach to investment and we must now build on this to ensure that our networks remain capable of supporting Scotland’s net zero transition.”
The full evidence gathered through the expression of interest process will be used to inform SSEN’s future plans, including preparation for the next price control RIIO-ED2 which starts in April 2023, and ongoing connections process.
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