New Transmission Link Between the UK Mainland and Shetland Isles Approved

Ofgem, UK’s electricity and gas markets regulator, has now approved SSEN’s (Scottish & Southern Electricity Networks’ subsea electricity transmission link with a capacity of 600MW. This transmission link connecting mainland Scotland and Shetland would be constructed for transmission of renewable energy from Shetland’s wind power farms to Great Britain.


A milestone in renewable energy adoption


As per Jonathan Brearley, who is the chief executive for Ofgem, their focus is to provide support to the energy sector to help it respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. It focused on ensuring that all its consumers, especially the most vulnerable ones are taken care of in these ties. The approval of the new link would act as a stimulus for the economy as it finds its way to recovery from the pandemic. It would also help to unlock the potential of Shetland in supplying low-cost renewable energy to consumers across Great Britain.


This link would also address issues around Shetland’s supply needs security. It would further provide their oil & gas sector with the chance to decarbonize, further adding to the aim of net-zero emissions set by Ofgem.

Ofgem has stated that it is committed to their target of a net-zero economy while ensuring that consumers pay the least possible for their energy requirements. As part of the net-zero plan, Ofgem aims to support the development of an offshore grid system that would help in increasing the offshore wind generation by over 4 times. This is targeted to be completed by 2030. It aims to make the energy system more flexible and renewable.


A revised proposal and some more conditions


However, the road to getting Ofgem’s approval has not been a smooth one for SSEN- and it not there yet. The approval for SSEN’s proposal comes after it had submitted a revised one for the link. In October 2019, SSEN was not able to obtain approval from Ofgem. This is because of Viking Energy windfarm project being unable to get a subsidy during the UK Government’s Action for Contract for Difference. In early January this year, SSEN submitted a revised proposal to Ofgem. This revision also covered updates on the progress that was made on the planned windfarms.


The approval provided by Ofgem is still conditional. It depends on getting credible evidence that would support the progress made in the Viking Energy Wind Farm Project with a 457MW capacity. This evidence must be furnished by the end of 2020 for the approval to stay in place. Ofgem is also in the process of carrying out a final consultation on this approval.

Ofgem is the regulator for all network companies which includes SSEN, a subsidiary of SSE. The energy consumers contribute to the investment cost in new network capacities through their energy bills. It is the job of the regulator to ensure that the customers thus get the best possible deals.


What lies ahead for SSEN


The Viking Energy Wind Farm partnership is hopeful to make its 475MW venture fully operational by the year 2024. SSE is working to get a commercial route for marketing the Viking wind farm. It is expected to create around 140 local jobs in the construction phase. Once complete, it would provide the area with 35 local jobs to maintain the project. This wind farm can provide energy for powering close to half a million households.

Ofgem has provided its approval to the Caithness-Moray and Hinkley-Seabank links and given conditional approval to a link in Orkney. The project would be the first of its kind that would connect the Nation’s Electricity Transmission to Shetland. It comprises of 260km cabling, all of which would be in the sea except for 10km.


The UK has already made significant progress in the decarbonization of its economy, and this plan is yet another step in that direction. It will require a significant change in low-carbon and renewable electricity generation. With newer technologies and projects like these, their target to get there by 2050 may just be achievable.