Scots wind energy at centre of £58bn GB grid proposal

National Grid plc’s Electricity System Operator (ESO) has published a report called “Beyond 2030” which proposes a £58 billion investment in the British electricity grid “to meet the growing and decarbonising demand for electricity in Great Britain by 2035.”

ESO said this investment will allow Britain “to exploit the economic potential as a leader in offshore wind by moving the power to where it is needed.”

The plan connects a further 21GW of offshore wind in development off the coast of Scotland to the British grid “in an efficient and coordinated way.”

This would mean that there would be 86 GW of offshore wind, making Britain “a global leader in offshore wind and floating offshore windfarms.”

ESO said: “For comparison, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) states that there is currently 63GW of offshore wind installed globally.

“In total there will be over 30 GW of offshore wind in Scottish waters compared to 6 GW of peak electricity demand in Scotland in 2035.

“The plan moves that power to where it can be used – both around Scotland and across Britain.

“ESO’s plan supports decarbonisation, jobs, and economic growth: ESO’s plan enables a fully decarbonised electricity system by 2035, in line with the Sixth Carbon Budget.

“The plan could also create and sustain over 20,000 jobs annually, with 90% of the benefits occurring outside London and the Southeast, according to independent research.

“ESO’s plan requires swift and coordinated action: ESO’s report stresses the need for swift and coordinated action across the energy sector, government, the regulator, and communities to deliver the network infrastructure in time to meet 2035.”

ESO recommends an expansion of the offshore grid and a new North to South “electrical spine.”

Offshore windfarms in development off the coast of Scotland would have their green energy transported via a new electrical spine spanning potentially from Peterhead to Merseyside, supplying homes and businesses across Scotland and North England with homegrown electricit. This is an early-stage option which would require further consideration and consultation.

ESO is also recommending further “offshore bootstraps” along the East coast of Britain.

“By 2035, GB will have one of the most expansive and coordinated offshore grids in the world, with three times more undersea cabling than onshore,” said ESO.

“Further design optimisation, innovation and community engagement will be undertaken to ensure that the needs of different communities and wider economic and system security needs are balanced.”

ESO executive director Fintan Slye said: “Great Britain’s electricity system is the backbone of our economy and must be fit for our future. ESO’s ‘Beyond 2030’ network design outlines recommendations on the investment needed and how and where to coordinate the build of this new critical national infrastructure.

“To deliver the clean, secure, decarbonised system set out by Government and Devolved Governments we must take swift, coordinated and lasting action working collaboratively across all parts of the energy sector, government, the regulator and within our communities.”

SSEN Transmission, part of Perth-based energy infrastructure giant SSE, welcomed the ESO report. 

“Today’s publication builds on the ESO’s ‘Pathway to 2030’ Holistic Network Design from 2022 which established the blueprint for the electricity transmission network infrastructure required to enable the UK Government’s 2030 50GW offshore wind target, which included around 11GW of ScotWind generation,” said SSEN Transmission.

“The ‘Beyond 2030’ plan will connect another tranche of ScotWind whilst also setting out options to deliver the remainder. 

“It will also enable the connection of other low carbon technologies, further supporting the country’s transition to net zero and helping deliver energy security through the deployment of homegrown, low carbon electricity generation.

“For the north of Scotland, the ESO’s plan confirms the need for a number of projects to proceed now for delivery by 2035, which combined represent a potential estimated investment of over £5bn for SSEN Transmission …

Progression of these investments will require an appropriate regulatory framework, including early confirmation that SSEN Transmission will be the Delivery Body, alongside securing all planning and regulatory approvals. 

“They will also be subject to extensive public consultation to help inform the development of these new and upgraded network infrastructure requirements.

“For the other projects in the north of Scotland included in the ESO’s ‘Beyond 2030’ report, further assessment is necessary to determine the appropriate level of investment required to enable the full potential of ScotWind to be realised, including the most appropriate solution for the required north-south transfer of power.”

SSEN Transmission is responsible for the electricity transmission network in the north of Scotland, investing in and maintaining the high voltage 132kV, 220kV, 275kV, 400kV and HVDC electricity transmission network.

SSEN Transmission is owned 75% by SSE plc and 25% by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board.