Scotland's electricity and gas networks: vision to 2030

Based on Scotland's energy strategy, this document looks at the ways in which Scotland's electricity and gas network infrastructure will continue to support the energy transition.

Ministerial Foreword

Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands

Scotland's Energy Strategy, published in December 2017, sets out ambitious targets for a low carbon future for Scotland's energy system and society. In concert with our Climate Change Plan, it will help Scotland deliver against the Climate Change Scotland Act 2009 and play our part as a nation in tackling the damaging effects of climate change. The Strategy will boost Scotland's economy, while also tackling the problem of fuel poverty and creating a range of new models for developing local and community energy.

In 2017, Scotland's gas and electricity networks delivered around half of all the energy we used in Scotland; in that year £2.25 billion worth of Scottish electricity generation entered the networks, more than 50% of which came from renewables, and gas valued at more than £5 billion entered the gas transmission network at the St. Fergus Gas Terminal. These networks help deliver affordable, reliable and increasingly low carbon energy across Scotland. They will be critical to delivering the principles of the Energy Strategy, and achieving its outcomes.

Their critical importance will remain as we look at opportunities to accelerate progress to decarbonise both our heat and transport systems. We expect electric vehicles to create significant new demand for electricity and lead to new challenges for electricity distribution networks. In particular, new solutions will be needed at the edges of the grid where network capacity may currently be insufficient for unmanaged EV charging. We expect there to be a need for significant investment in these distribution networks, but it is important that capacity is used efficiently.

The ability to deliver low carbon gases, including hydrogen, through the gas networks represents one option for the future of low carbon heat provision, and for transport as a fuel for road, rail and shipping. Repurposing the gas network in this way would allow us to continue using the flexibility and reach that the gas network provides. In the years ahead we propose to explore further opportunities for the generation of low carbon hydrogen, and the use of the gas networks for its distribution and storage.

Whatever their ultimate shape, it is certain that we are going to see huge changes to the ways in which networks are planned and operated. These changes have to be delivered quickly and carefully. We believe that they must be designed to meet the interests of both consumers and businesses, be consistent with our desire to reduce fuel poverty, and reflect the needs of vulnerable customers across mainland Scotland and our islands.

We must work to ensure that our networks continue to support a resilient energy system, throughout and beyond the low carbon transition. There needs to be a greater strategic focus on regional security of supply which considers not only the networks themselves but also the location and characteristics of the resources connected to them.

Our vision for the networks highlights the growing complexity, technical challenges, structural changes and new technologies that together have the potential to fundamentally alter the relationship between consumers and the networks. It also shows the unique opportunity that exists in Scotland to lead the development of networks that are fit for the 21st Century, enabling and sustaining a truly low carbon economy - for example, through Scottish Government's role in the planning and consenting of new energy infrastructure in Scotland.

For this to be effective, we need organisations to work in partnership and to deliver networks which support wider social and economic aims - including the economic aspiration of our remote rural areas and 93 inhabited islands.

We are already working closely with the UK Government and Ofgem to understand and support work on the future design of our networks. We remain determined to ensure that, at all times, Scotland's priorities are properly understood and reflected in any decision making that impacts on the networks.

We will take a number of actions to help achieve our goals. These will include a Networks Summit, to be held in Scotland later this year, and the creation of a Scottish Energy Networks Group focussed on the issues set out in this document. We will also look at ways to support consumers and their representatives, communities, businesses and local authorities to engage in conversations about the future of our networks in the most effective way.

We will continue to work with our stakeholders on a range of hydrogen energy and transport initiatives, and publish an interactive mapping tool charting hydrogen activity on a region by region basis across Scotland.

This is a complex and technical area, as this document reflects, but it is critical to setting the framework within which the energy and wider low carbon transition will happen. We want to broaden participation in the debate and we will support this by every means possible.

This document lays out our perspective on the scale of the challenges which we face. It is our vision, and one that is true to the low carbon principles and ambitions laid out in our Energy Strategy. We are keen to enter a discussion with you on this vision.

I believe that the spirit of innovation and collaboration that we have developed around Scotland's Energy Strategy will play a major part in delivering our Networks Vision.

Paul Wheelhouse MSP,
Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands



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