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Energy / Subsea cable planning continues despite CfD setback

Shetland subsea cable lead project manager Daryn Lucas at Sound hall on Tuesday. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

SCOTTISH & Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN), the company responsible for maintaining and upgrading electricity infrastructure on behalf of the National Grid, says it is confident of lodging planning applications to Shetland Islands Council and Marine Scotland for a proposed 250 kilometre subsea cable running from Kergord to Wick before the end of the year.

The ongoing work to connect Shetland to the national grid with a 600 megawatt cable comes after three wind farm projects ready to start construction failed to win government subsidy in the recent Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction.

During a well-attended roadshow event in the Sound Hall on Tuesday evening, lead project manager Daryn Lucas said the companies involved had confirmed to SSEN that despite the recent CfD setback all their projects are continuing as before.

Viking Energy/SSE has planning permission for a hugely controversial 457MW wind farm in the central mainland of Shetland, while Manchester-based Peel Energy has two projects ready – the 72MW Beaw Field development in Yell and the 50MW Mossy Hill wind farm to the north of Lerwick.

There is also the 200MW Energy Isles project in Yell, which was started by a group of local businesses and has now partnered with Norwegian state-owned energy giant Statkraft. The development does not yet have consent.

In addition, the proposed subsea cable is also designed to supply Shetland with electricity from the Scottish mainland, if required, after the Lerwick power station has come to the end of its life, expected to be in 2025.

SSEN hopes to have planning consent for the subsea cable in place by spring 2020, however, the final decision whether or not the interconnector will be built rests with energy regulator Ofgem and its assessment of Shetland’s ‘needs case’.

“Obviously the first question we had following the CfD results was ‘are your projects dead now?’, and all developers, that is Viking Energy, Peel Energy and Energy Isles, all said they were still committed to their projects,” Lucas said.

“Despite the recent CfD announcements these project have been on and off for a number of years.

“SSEN has committed money and staff to get the marine licence in place – it is valid for five years – and who is to say that over the next five years the marine licence isn’t needed. Having got so far it is worth finishing off the process”

Lerwick power station is due to close in 2025. Photo: Shetland News

However, the cable continues to hinge in the first instance on whether Viking Energy will go ahead with its 103-turbine project.

“At the moment they [Viking] are saying they do that, so we are carrying on based on that same need,” Lucas said.

“If Viking change or cancel or reduce, and if the other developers were all to change, then we could look at that with Ofgem as a potential material change.”

Thrown into this mix is the question around Shetland’s future electricity supply.

After Ofgem rejected two previous proposals of replacing the ageing Lerwick power station beyond 2025, the latest plan to power the isles via the subsea cable could now also be in doubt should Viking and hence the cable fail to materialise.

Lucas said the idea was to use the cable as a back-up to import electricity from Scotland on the rare occasions that the isles’ wind farms would not be able to supply Shetland’s homes and business with renewable energy.

However, the ‘future of Shetland’s electricity supply’ element in this is not “a driver” in the subsea cable planning process, and hence the question of how to replace the Lerwick power station is back on the agenda.

General Election - 12 December 2019