SSEN Distribution to deliver £2.7million of strategic network investment to accelerate a green economic recovery on Orkney

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) Distribution is set to accelerate £2.7m of investment in the local electricity network near Kirkwall in Orkney to aid a green recovery and provide additional capacity for low carbon projects that will help deliver net zero. 

This investment, which will include SSEN upgrading 16km of the overhead lines that are fed from Kirkwall Primary substation, will create an additional 7.3MW of network capacity and support the uptake of low carbon technologies (LCTs) and low carbon projects across the local community. 

The project is part of a £41m programme of strategic investment by SSEN which will unlock over 122MW of additional capacity across the north of Scotland and central southern England to drive green economic growth, create skilled jobs, and support the deployment of low carbon projects.  

In addition to enabling the growth of electric vehicles and heat pumps in the Kirkwall area, SSEN’s investment will support the development of the UK’s first low carbon, operationally-based aviation test centre at Kirkwall Airport, which will conduct important electric flight trials.  

By increasing capacity on the local electricity network, SSEN will be supporting the pioneering Sustainable Aviation Test Environment (SATE) project, led by Highlands and Islands Airport Limited (HIAL), whose ambition is for all 11 of its airports to be carbon-neutral and help create the world’s first net zero aviation region in the Highlands and Islands. 

The SATE project is expected to make a significant contribution to reducing CO2 emissions at Kirkwall Airport and provide a blueprint for net zero Regional Airport operations.  

Kimberley Fisher, Kirkwall Airport Manager welcomes SSEN’s upgrades to the local network and the benefits that will come with increased capacity: 

“Net zero is a priority for HIAL and us at Kirkwall Airport as we strive to deliver an environmentally sustainable future for aviation services in the Highlands and Islands.   The SATE project is an important step in the transition towards delivering decarbonised scheduled flights for our communities.   Working in partnership is the key to success and we are delighted that the investment from the green recovery scheme will support the development of the SATE project at the airport.” 

As part of scheme, SSEN will be installing approximately 1,000 low voltage monitors at key points across its two distribution network areas, providing near real-time visibility in areas where high levels of electricity demand from increased uptake of electric vehicles and electric heating is predicted. This will enable the network operator to better manage local infrastructure, identifying how best to optimise capacity. 

SSEN's plans are part of a £300m programme of investment announced on Monday (24th May) by the energy regulator Ofgem. 

Chris Burchell, Managing Director, SSEN Distribution, said: 

“We are determined to play our full part in addressing the twin challenges of the economic and social recovery from coronavirus and the impending climate emergency, where local electricity networks will play a vital role.  With COP26 on the horizon, today’s investment demonstrates how collaborative action and regulatory flexibility can help us achieve this aim and power change for our customers and society.   

“The green recovery scheme provides a blueprint for future agile investment in our networks in the coming years, where rapid progress will be required to keep pace with net zero.  By undertaking £40 million in strategic network investment now, we are helping unlock innovative low carbon projects at the right time, boosting local economies and supporting communities to achieve their net zero ambitions.” 

Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport Michael Matheson said: 

“Scotland is wholly committed to becoming a net zero economy by 2045, and doing so in a way that is just and fair for all. I strongly welcome this investment in Scotland’s energy networks, which will help our progress towards decarbonisation while ensuring that the economic and social benefits of the energy transition are realised across the country. 

“We have worked closely with our stakeholders to support the strong and successful bids from Scotland’s network companies for this substantial funding. These projects and investments will support further innovation in green energy, unlocking capacity in our networks to support electrification of transport as well as other technologies like battery storage, renewables and heat pumps. 

“This announcement by Ofgem is the product of an agile approach to investment and we must now build on this to ensure that our networks remain capable of supporting Scotland’s net zero transition.” 

The full evidence gathered through the expression of interest process will be used to inform SSEN’s future plans, including preparation for the next price control RIIO-ED2 which starts in April 2023, and ongoing connections process. 

The image above shows one of the low carbon planes being trialled at Kirkwall Airport.

About the author

Van on rural road

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks

We're responsible for maintaining the electricity networks supplying over 3.8 million homes and businesses across central southern England and north of the Central Belt of Scotland. We own one electricity transmission network and two electricity distribution networks, comprising 106,000 substations and 130,000 km of overhead lines and underground cables across one third of the UK. Our first priority is to provide a safe and reliable supply of electricity to the communities we serve in Scotland and England.

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