SSE’s website contains an interesting articlei, posted just before Christmas. Behind the somewhat technical and jargon-ridden title (“SSEN TRANSMISSION CALLS FOR TIMELY REGULATORY APPROVAL OF EAST COAST HVDC LINK ‘FINAL NEEDS CASE’”) is what seems to me to be a rather serious point.

In the rush to hoover up subsidies and to build as many wind farms as possible in obscure locations a long way from the end-users of the electricity they intermittently generate, it doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone (until now) that we need a means of transmitting the electricity to the end-users.

So bad is the situation, that only now is SSEN Transmission, together with National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET), submitting a Final Needs Case to the regulator, Ofgem, with a view to approval for the proposed £2.1Bn joint venture for an “initial 2GW link [which] will run from Peterhead in north east Scotland to Yorkshire (Drax) on the east coast of England.” Later in the article, the Managing Director of SSEN Transmission is quoted as referring to a link between Peterhead and Selby. Drax Power Station is indeed at Selby. It’s to be hoped that the engineers and contractors who ultimately build the link understand that Selby is not on the east coast of England.

As well as not coming cheap, this stuff, not unreasonably, takes quite a while to put in place. In this case, we are told, the project has “an energisation date of 2029”. In other words, this is going to take seven years or more to bring to fruition. Fair enough – it’s a complicated project, after all.

There is, however, a snag:

The link is essential to alleviate constraints on the GB transmission system, enable growth in renewables and support the transition to net zero emissions…For every year this link is not in place, hundreds of millions of pounds of GB consumers money is paid out in constraint payments to electricity generators unable to export to the grid. It is therefore vital that there are no delays to the delivery of this critical national infrastructure.

Surely someone should have thought about this sooner?

Finally, we are told:

To further support the forecast growth in renewables required to deliver net zero, particularly offshore wind and the UK and Scottish Government’s 2030 offshore wind targets of 40GW and 11GW respectively, a second HVDC link from Peterhead to England is also planned.

If we really have to go down this route, let’s hope somebody thinks to put the horse before the cart this time.

Endnote

i https://www.sse.com/news-and-views/2021/12/ssen-transmission-calls-for-timely-regulatory-approval-of-east-coast-hvdc-link-final-needs-case/

2 Comments

  1. Norfolk is to be criss-crossed by wind farm cables: https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/orsted-cuts-build-time-for-hornsea-three-wind-farm-to-1171570

    The north-south cable is slated to take 8 years to complete, down from the original 11. (That’s for Hornsea 3.) The east-west cable I’m not sure about (it’s for Vanguard/Norfolk Boreas). One would have thought that at the point they cross, they could have planned a common route to the nearest bit of the grid.

    Of course in this case, the onshore works come first. There’s no point having whirligigs spinning if they aren’t hooked up to anything.

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  2. As for the shambles that is the UK’s electricity generation and distribution network these days, I’m minded to compare it to the old joke about the American tourist in his hire car in Ireland who asks a local the way to the place he wants to get to. The local scratches his head, thinks about it for a while, and says “Well now, I wouldn’t be starting from here”.

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