Tuesday 21 May 2024
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Energy / Grid supply point feedback ‘consultation in name only’, campaign group says

A visualisation of the Gremista Grid Supply Point building, which is seen in dark colours near the middle of the picture at the bottom of the hill.

A CALL for feedback on plans for a key piece of electricity infrastructure has been described as a “consultation in name only” by a local campaign group.

Sustainable Shetland chairman Frank Hay said he felt plans for a grid supply point (GSP) at Gremista in Lerwick would be “approved regardless” by regulator Ofgem.

He also claimed there are concerns about the GSP – which will be located on land behind the Ocean Kinetics building near the power station – being “very near to people’s homes and businesses”.

Earlier this year Ofgem went out to consultation on the needs case and preferred option for the supply point, proposed by Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission (SHET).

The piece of infrastructure, which already has planning permission, is proposed to enable local supply once the Viking Energy wind farm and interconnector cable go live in 2024. Ground investigations and initial archaeological assessments have already been carried out.

Ofgem said it accepts the justification for the project, adding it is the “optimal solution”.

The regulator also said it would “avoid the need for significant additional investment” to maintain the existing Lerwick Power Station, which is nearing the end of its life and is due to go into standby when Viking Energy switches on.

But Hay said despite the consultation, approval is “already assumed by SHET”.

“It is clear that this is an essential part of the already approved subsea link to Shetland which could not fulfil the reasons for approval without this GSP,” he wrote.

Hay claimed that the needs case for the project “seems to be based on flawed evidence from SSE”.

“Their plans do not ensure security of supply for Shetland when subsea cables have a questionable track record,” he said.

“Any failures in subsea cables take a long time to repair, especially in winter. It is worth pointing out that the link to Shetland requires two long subsea cables to be utilised.”

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With new overhead power lines also proposed in the central mainland, the campaigner also called for grid upgrade works to be placed underground.

“With 103 oversized turbines dominating the landscape of Central Shetland the least SSE should do is minimise other impacts,” he said.

“Given that the total cost of the wind farm, subsea cable and other requirements will be over £1.3 billion the extra cost of undergrounding would be a very small percentage of that.”

Writing to Ofgem, Hay also said the “main reason behind this whole charade is an attempt to facilitate renewable energy projects, notably SSE’s Viking Energy, irrespective of the costs involved”.

Meanwhile National Grid ESO, the electricity system operator for Great Britain, also responded to the consultation.

Shetland is due to be connected to the national grid for the first time when the 600MW subsea interconnector goes live.

National Grid development manager Nick Harvey said the organisation strongly supports the GSP plans “as part of the wider scheme of the infrastructure needed to connect zero-carbon generation on Shetland to the rest of the transmission system as we move at pace towards meeting our net zero targets”.

SSEN Transmission said it agreed with Ofgem’s view on the need for investment in the Gremista supply point.

There were also three representations from members of the public.

One respondent said they felt the proposed GSP is “geared towards providing a link between SSE Viking Energy Windfarm and the Scottish mainland and not about providing a secure supply of electricity to customers in Shetland”.

An “authorised representative for The Sovereign Nation of Shetland” also wrote in to question if Ofgem was able to show that they “have the authority to be doing business in Shetland”.

The final representation came from someone who said they “cursed the very existence” of Ofgem and claimed the regulator was “part of the evil cancer of democratic deficit and greed that the UK has sunken to”.

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