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Energy / SSEN to consult on scheme which could see community benefit money come from transmission link

The HVDC cable being pulled into shore at Weisdale Voe.

THE SUBSEA transmission link currently being built between Shetland and Caithness could result in community benefit cash, according to developer SSEN.

SSEN Transmission believes new funds should recognise the “vital role” local communities in the north of Scotland area will play in hosting the transmission infrastructure in the push towards net zero.

The company is looking to work with the energy regulator Ofgem to agree a Community Benefit Legacy Fund associated with net zero transmission infrastructure projects, whilst a consultation is set to open this summer.

These projects would need to be approved by Ofgem, have an investment value of £100 million or more and for which construction has already commenced or will commence between now and 2026.

The 600MW HVDC Shetland transmission link will connect the isles to the National Grid for the first time.

It will also allow the Viking Energy wind farm, which is also under construction, to export surplus power to the mainland.

The cable will reach shore in Weisdale Voe before underground cables run into Kergord.

Shetland being connected to the national grid will also mean Lerwick Power Station will switch off and go into standby mode in 2025.

The renewables arm of SSEN which is leading the Viking Energy project is already set to pay out around £2.2 million a year in community benefit money when the wind farm is operational.

To help inform discussions with the regulator, and to inform development of proposals for funds associated with future projects, SSEN Transmission will be consulting with communities in July on delivering its new proposed fund.

The fund will see over £10 million being spent on delivering a “sustainable and positive legacy” for communities hosting large net zero infrastructure assets in the Highlands, Aberdeenshire, Orkney, Shetland, Angus and Argyll.

Examples of eligible projects include the Shetland link, the East Coast 400kV upgrade and the Eastern Green Link 2 from Peterhead to Drax in England.

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SSEN said input from local community members will play a vital role in establishing how investments in community projects will be made.

Given the long life of transmission infrastructure, SSEN Transmission is also calling for future funds to be extended across the lifetime of network assets, which would be consistent with voluntary and well-established community benefit principles for onshore wind infrastructure.

The company has also backed the government’s intention that a flexible approach to community benefit guidance is established to ensure funding is tailored to meet the specific needs of communities and regions.

Speaking on the fund consultation launch and wider government discussion on community benefit funds, SSEN Transmission’s managing director Rob McDonald said: “Launching a consultation on our first funds in the north of Scotland and recognising the vital role that communities in the region are already playing by hosting critical national infrastructure, is a really big step in the right direction.

“The initial £10m+ will have a lasting positive economic impact and we’re committed to working with communities and other stakeholders in the region to make sure that investment is made wisely.

“It’s just the start though. And that’s why we’ve reached out to Government with our thoughts on how we can go further on community benefit for electricity transmission infrastructure.

“The projects we’ll deliver between now and 2030 in the north of Scotland are significant. They’ll create thousands of jobs and add economic value to the area. Properly recognising the contribution that the communities in the region will play in hosting that infrastructure is important. And a proportionate approach to community benefit helps us to do just that.”

The Government’s consultation period on transmission community benefit closed earlier this month and a response is expected later this year.

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