Letters / Subsea link will not help tackle fuel poverty

When someone starts their letter with “not living on the same planet”, you just know the rest of it will be a rant. John Waters’ critique of me is no exception.

Electricity distribution needs updating

He states that, arriving in Shetland over 50 years ago “as an engineer with an electrical background”he was “surprised to find it was not linked to the national grid.”


Had he bothered to read recent local media coverage he would know that a basic, ‘no-frills’ link would cost over £300 million (2017), versus £105 million for a new, gas-fired power station (2020). That’s why there was no grid link 50 years ago. Money not wasted on one was used to keep the price of electricity affordable.

I have never suggested retaining the old Lerwick power station. A modern, gas-fired plant is needed, with local gas supplies to tackle Shetland’s appalling fuel poverty (53 per cent of homes). A grid link will rule that out.


He refuses to be “drawn into the wind farm debate”. However, a vast industrial wind farm is inseparably linked to SSEN’s proposal. Ofgem will only approve the grid link if the Viking Energy wind farm is built.

Failures of interconnectors on which Shetland renewable energy will depend are well documented and have already cost hundreds of millions. Ofgem is investigating and further subsea DC links should be halted until the problems are fully understood and resolved.

If Viking Energy (VE) is forced to shut down due to such a failure, it would receive £55,000/hr, £1.32 million per day (2020 average rate), for generating nothing.


At last year’s renewable energy auction price, it would receive £11,000/hr (50% load factor) for generating normally, a fifth of the “constrained-off” price. Thus, developers are strongly incentivised to maximise constraint payments by building in remote places, behind vulnerable or inadequate interconnectors.

John Tulloch


Ofgem Consultation on £300+ million NGSLL-Aggreko Distribution Link (2017): https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/system/files/docs/2017/07/shetland_new_energy_solution_-_consultation_document.pdf

Grid Link Dependent on Viking Energy (Ofgem 2020): https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/publications-and-updates/shetland-transmission-project-consultation-proposed-final-needs-case-and-delivery-model

Western Link Failures: https://www.ref.org.uk/ref-blog/351-western-link-outages-increase-consumer-costs-for-scottish-wind-farms-

Caithness-Moray Subsea Link Failure: http://marine.gov.scot/sites/default/files/environmental_appraisal_-_redacted_0.pdf