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How can renewables support Net Zero? A blog from Peter Roper, Eastern Link Project Director, SP Energy Networks

06/10/2022

An insight into our Eastern Link project, which will see us build one of the highest capacity underwater HVDC cables in the world to help achieve the UK’s goal of zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Networks at the heart of Net Zero

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The energy landscape is changing rapidly, and how we generate and use electricity is shifting. The UK and devolved governments have set ambitious Net Zero targets and if we are to have any hope of meeting those, we need to act now to decarbonise key sectors and to build the network of the future for our customers and communities.

The electricity system is crucial to this and as one of the main Transmission Operators in the UK, we have a unique and critical role to play and none more so than in enabling the growth of renewables.

Looking at offshore wind alone, the UK Government is seeking to have 50GW connected by 2030 which means we need to significantly increase the capacity of the electricity network between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

The Scottish government has also set out serious intentions for achieving its net zero targets by committing to net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases by 2045. In addition, Scotwind, the leasing of seabeds around Scotland for windfarm developments, is expected to achieve an average of 27.6GW which utilities Scotland’s natural resources and signifies the expansion of offshore wind becoming a key component in achieving the overall UK target of 50GW of offshore wind by 2030.

And we’re facing challenges like these against a backdrop of an energy and cost of living crisis, where security of supply and cost-effective solutions are rightly front of mind across the entire industry. We need to find smarter, more agile ways to manage the electricity network to ensure it remains reliable and affordable for all.

How can renewable energy help?

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Renewable energy has a big part to play in addressing those challenges. Not only will it contribute significantly to decarbonising the energy system, but there’s also the potential for it to help stabilise energy prices in future. That’s why we’re focused on developing innovative solutions and investing significantly to enable the increase in renewables connecting to our network, and Eastern Link is a perfect example.

The project, which we’re developing jointly with National Grid, will see 190km of some of the highest capacity HVDC cables in the world installed underwater from East Lothian in Scotland to South Hetton in County Durham – delivering an anticipated capacity of 2GW, which is enough to power over one million homes. It will provide a vital new energy link between Scotland and England; enabling additional security of supply for Scotland and the means to utilise significant on and offshore green energy generation.

Eastern Link is a huge undertaking with significant investment and considerable operations involved, but the delivery of a project of this size and scale will make a significant contribution to Net Zero targets and enabling a sustainable future for all.

Collaboration across the industry to deliver critical projects and initiatives like this will leave a legacy that benefits consumers and the whole country for decades to come. I for one am proud to be involved during such a pivotal time in our sector and I’m looking forward to seeing the benefits from projects like Eastern Link coming to fruition.

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