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Scottish Government releases its vision for electricity and gas networks

12/03/2019

The Scottish Government has today (12 March 2019) released its exciting vision for Scotland’s Electricity and Gas Networks in the future, which recognises the critical role network businesses play in delivering secure, clean and affordable energy supplies at a critical time in the regulatory cycle. 

Although the report focuses on activities and opportunities in Scotland, it's clear that the priorities and focus areas reinforce our strategy and priorities across all of our network areas.

Scott Mathieson, Network Planning & Regulation Director at SP Energy Networks: 

“I’m pleased to see the publication of the Scottish Government’s Networks Vision today, and to see energy networks at the heart of the effective low carbon transition, enabling universal access for all in Scotland and across Great Britain. I fully support this vision which rightly positions the consumer at the centre of the design of networks in Scotland; particularly as there is a focus on addressing the challenges of integrating heat and transport electrification into the existing electricity distribution networks.

“Here at SP Energy Networks (SPEN), we’re uniquely positioned to understand the whole energy system of the future because we operate across transmission and distribution and are the only network company to operate across Scotland, England and Wales. In Scotland we’ve had to meet the challenges of decarbonisation earlier and quicker than other areas of the UK, and we are at the forefront of the transformation to deliver the flexible, smarter network of the future whilst ensuring the best value for our customers.

“The Scottish Government envisages maintaining a secure and stable electricity system, including greatly reduced capacity from traditional large scale power plants and increasing contributions from intermittent renewables and interconnection. Given Scotland is leading the renewables revolution, which our energy networks business was fundamental in establishing, we fully support the Scottish Government’s call for greater strategic focus on regional security of supply given the step-change in generation across the country. This means considering not only the network, but also the location and characteristics of resources connected to them. SPEN is at the forefront of decarbonising our energy system, having connected ~3 GW of onshore wind onto our transmission network and ~2 GW to our distribution network (which has a winter peak demand of 4GW). In addition, we have more than doubled Scotland’s export capacity to 6.6 GW, and increased import to over 4 GW.

“Our £100m innovation projects cover diverse areas from digital substations and use of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in our active network management and sequence switching schemes, through to our new market-making flexibility tools. If we are to facilitate the transition to a low carbon future in a cost effective way we need to maximise the potential  of  the  existing  electrical  infrastructure now. For example, our Integrated Network Management Scheme in Dumfries and Galloway (as highlighted in the vision paper) will help to achieve a reduction in Co2 emissions of 522k tonnes by 2031 – that’s the equivalent of the greenhouse gas emissions from 110,000 diesel/petrol vehicles being driven for a year. We achieve this by facilitating more renewable generation to be connected to the electricity network in a more flexible manner.

“I strongly believe the  evolution  of  the  energy  sector  towards  a  smarter system, as laid out in this vision,  will  only  be  possible  if  Distribution  Network Operator’s (DNOs) play an active co-ordinating role between all market participants, facilitating the markets and services in a neutral and non-discriminatory manner. That’s why we’re leading the way in moving to a Distribution System Operator (DSO) model. A DSO securely operates and develops an active distribution system comprising networks, demand, generation and other flexible Distributed Energy Resources (DER). It will enable competitive access to markets and optimise the use of DER on the network to deliver security, sustainability and affordability in the support of whole system optimisation.

“Our integrated operations also mean our Operational Control Centre is already equipped to begin the journey to Distribution System Operation; ahead of our competitors. We already have deep knowledge of our local and regional distribution networks and the customers we serve and have significant infrastructure in place to deliver this vision. That’s why we are taking a leading role through the Energy Networks Association’s Open Networks Project, which will transform the way energy networks operate, underpinning the delivery of the smart grid.

“Flexibility will be key to enabling the pace of change we need to deliver this vision - which is why we’re looking for innovative tenders from third parties participating in the new energy market to provide services from storage to active demand side management that would help improve how we get the most from our assets and avoid reinforcement. In 2018 we also launched our Universal Smart Energy Platform through our £10m project FUSION. This will allow us to commoditise network capacity, procure services from a third party energy market and more effectively utilise the full capacity in our distribution systems.

“Each year we invest on average £775 million into our network – making just a 4 – 5% return on our investments over the next 45 years. When making network investment decisions we need to look at the societal benefits this can bring in the long term. Whilst continuing to connect increasing amounts of decentralised renewable generation, our networks will soon face additional stresses from society’s increasing electricity demand as a result of the electrification of transport and heat. With electricity networks enabling consumers to fuel their cars and heat their homes and businesses, this makes them potentially more vulnerable, given their increasing reliance on their electricity supply.

“I’m delighted to see the Scottish Government highlight the  importance of Network resilience and security of supply which must therefore be at the heart of facilitating the network infrastructure for a low carbon future. We’re working to gain Ofgem’s support to allow us to undertake the necessary investment requirements, ahead of demand.

“There has never been a more challenging and exciting time to be part of the energy sector, and I look forward to continuing to work very closely with the Scottish Government over the coming years to deliver on their vision for the industry and the wider economy.”

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