Ofgem presented with Orkney’s renewables link needs

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) has submitted a ‘final needs case’ to the UK energy regulator Ofgem for a subsea cable link that could connect up to 220MW of new renewables on Orkney to the Scottish mainland.

The network reinforcement is required to enable renewable generation seeking to connect on Orkney access to the Great Britain market, allowing Orkney to unlock its vast renewables potential, according to SSEN.

Pending regulatory approval, the proposed solution would deliver a phased approach to reinforcement, which will initially deliver a single 220kV subsea cable in October 2022, SSEN said.

It will then be followed by a second cable of similar specification once further generation has committed and the economic case has been made for the further investment.

SSEN’s needs case analysis concluded that the ‘tipping point’ to justify the investment for the first cable is no more than 70MW, the point at which the cost of the investment is exceeded by the benefits of the renewable energy supplied to energy consumers.

Therefore, SSEN has requested a conditional approval of the needs case from Ofgem subject to demonstration that 70MW of generation has been committed to by developers.

As part of its business case, SSEN has also proposed an alternative approach to the current ‘first to contract, first to connect’ arrangements to unlock potential barriers to connection.

The alternative approach, which is also subject to regulatory approval, would see capacity allocated on a ‘ready to connect’ basis, to allow customers who are ready to connect to progress quicker and ensure the new capacity is fully exploited.

Dave Gardner, SSEN’s Director of Transmission, said: “We strongly believe our proposals for Orkney represent a strong and compelling economic case for reinforcement and the best possible opportunity to unlock Orkney’s renewable potential. We now look forward to working constructively with Ofgem as they review our submission.”

SSEN added it is currently consulting on the principles, development and framework for the proposed alternative approach to the reinforcement of Orkney, until March 12, 2018.

Orkney has become one of Britain’s leading centers for innovation in renewable energy and is home to some of Europe’s greatest renewable resources, from onshore wind to wave and tidal.

Following the significant growth in small-scale renewable electricity generation over recent years, the existing Orkney electricity network is at full capacity and no further generation can connect without significant network reinforcements, according to SSEN.