Information regarding Scotland's powers to construct electricity interconnectors to continental Europe: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Information requested

You asked for information demonstrating that Scotland lacks the powers to construct electricity interconnectors to continental Europe.


The generation, transmission, distribution and supply of electricity is a reserved matter in terms of Head D2 of schedule 5 of the Scotland Act 1998. This includes the operation of interconnectors which is a licensable activity under the UK Energy Act 2004.

 Interconnectors are a market led investment with commercial developers making a return based on price differences between markets at either end of the interconnector.

All interconnection capacity is allocated to the market via market-based methods, i.e. auctions, and the trading arrangements on electricity interconnectors are governed by Access Rules and Charging Methodologies as noted in each interconnector’s licence.

With that in mind, it is commercial developers that make decisions on where they believe new interconnector capacity will create optimal trading conditions.

The activity of construction of any such physical infrastructure such as submarine cables required to transmit and distribute electricity is regulated by Marine Scotland- Licensing Operations Team, MS-LOT, on behalf of Scottish Ministers.

Scottish Ministers grant marine licences for licensable marine activities in the Scottish inshore region (0- 12 nm) under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and in the Scottish offshore region (12-200 nm) under the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.

It is a licensable marine activity to construct, alter or improve works in the Scottish inshore and offshore regions under the above Acts. This includes construction of subsea cables and their protection, although some  exemptions from the marine licensing requirements do apply with regards to construction of “exempt” submarine cables in the offshore region (unrelated to generation, transmission, distribution and supply of electricity).

To summarise, Scottish ministers provide consent for the construction of the cables and set out the environmental requirements that need to be followed. However, the need for a cable itself is determined
by the market with a licence required from the GB regulator Ofgem who is empowered by UK Government legislation.

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Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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