SSE is requesting Ofgem’s approval to spend £2.4 billion on transmission upgrades, including a 600MW subsea connection to Shetland. It would be the islands’ first link to the national grid.
Besides aiding export of wind power from the islands and boosting their security of supply, SSE says the link will also enable Shetland’s oil and gas facilities decarbonise their power use.
Given early investment approval from the regulator, SSE envisages the 120 mile interconnector can be operational by April 2024. Generation at gas-fired Lerwick, the islands’ main power station, is planned to be scaled back from 2025.
The planned interconnector also depends on Viking, SSE’s long-delayed 457 MW wind farm on the islands, winning investment go-ahead. Backed by a minority interest from an islander co-operative, SSE has earmarked Viking for a site on central Shetland since 2012. Planning challenges plus uncertainty over the UK government’s attitude to onshore wind have delayed the project for several years in Scotland’s courts.
Under RIIO-2 price controls, SSE’s transmission arm this week submitted a renewed Needs Case application to Ofgem for the subsea link.
Commenting on the application, SSE’s managing director for transmission Rob MacDonald said its “robust investment case … makes clear the 600MW link is the most economic, efficient and timely way to secure Shetland’s future energy needs”.
SSE had considered calls to develop a bigger link, said MacDonald. “But our analysis shows that a bigger link would not be economic or efficient and would create a delay of at least two years”.