In February 2020, the Scottish Government hosted the Energy Networks Vision Summit in Glasgow. The event aimed to help shape the future of Scotland's electricity and gas networks, giving stakeholders the opportunity to discuss and debate the issues addressed in the Scottish Government report 'Scotland's electricity and gas networks: vision to 2030'. The summit provided a forum for stakeholder-led discussion and debate and allowed participants to give feedback to energy industry players such as the network operators, the regulator, and the Scottish Government.
Following introductory presentations that gave attendees an overview of Scotland's path towards net zero, stakeholders had the opportunity to attend a morning and afternoon workshop, choosing from a total of six topics:
- Flexible consumers
- Decarbonisation of heat in buildings
- Local and community energy
- Transport decarbonisation
- Decarbonising industry
- Energy production – renewable electricity and green gas
The Scottish Government instructed EQ Communications, a specialist stakeholder engagement consultancy, to independently facilitate the workshops and to take notes of the comments made by stakeholders. Every effort has been made to faithfully record the feedback given.
The Energy Networks Vision Summit brought together a wide range of stakeholders to discuss the role of the gas and electricity networks in supporting Scotland's ambitions over the coming decade. Scotland now has binding targets to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, and an interim target to reduce emissions to 75% of 1990 levels by 2030, less than 10 years away. Scotland also has existing targets to meet 50% of all energy from renewable sources by 2030 across heat, transport and electricity, to make substantial progress on decarbonising heat, and to phase out the need for petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032. There is a strong focus on decarbonising in a way that supports everyone in Scotland, through a 'just transition', and ensuring that Scotland's economy can flourish.
Representatives from key stakeholder groups were invited to present their plans and aspirations for the coming decade and consider how these ambitions will affect what is needed from Scotland's gas and electricity networks while helping to deliver a just transition to a low carbon economy.
Claire Mack, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, highlighted the challenges the UK was facing in order to meet its targets, especially those relating to the need to accommodate the predicted rapid uptake of electric vehicles and heat pumps, which would rely on the networks taking an incremental and reactive approach. She noted that, by 2030, the model of the distribution system operators (dsos) would have more fully taken shape and, therefore, more immediate clarity on the new, future markets available for renewables would be essential for the industry's ability to plan.
The need for more open conversation on anticipatory investment was also a key theme in the presentation given by Audrey mciver, Director of Energy & Low Carbon at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, who pointed out the need to collaborate and innovate on an even greater scale during the RIIO-2 period in order to pave the way for RIIO-3 and achieve a sustainable and economically efficient transformation for long-term network investment. Audrey stated that all parties needed to take a whole system view and work together to develop options for the delivery of low carbon energy.
Tricia mcauley, Independent Consumer Representative, stated that the importance of planning ahead of time would also allow for an assessment of the consumer impacts and unintended consequences of energy networks' actions. She underscored the significance of strong leadership in the energy sector which took into account a just transition that would not leave anyone behind, and the need for networks to consider Scottish consumers while developing smart, flexible markets.
Finally, Cllr John Alexander, Leader of Dundee City Council, focused on the need for energy providers to incentivise home charging for electric vehicle owners. He called on network companies to provide clear options for electric vehicle owners and increase capacity to keep pace with the rapid growth in demand. Such growth would need sustained investment to create key pieces of infrastructure which were vital for the decarbonisation of transport in Scotland.
These introductory presentations set the scene for the rest of the summit and provided an excellent foundation for constructive discussion to take place between representatives of key organisations, the gas and electricity network companies, and Scottish Government.