Ageing energy networks at ‘critical point’ for net-zero ambitions

Ageing energy networks at ‘critical point’ for net-zero ambitions
‘If the UK and Scotland can become leading example in renewable power we can also export that’

A planned £3.5 billion boost could transform Scotland’s ageing energy networks from a “B road to a dual carriageway”, allowing more homes to be powered by renewable electricity, an energy chief has said.

The electricity grid, some of it installed more than half a century ago, is at a “critical point” and needs to be upgraded to support the electrification of public and private transport and the decarbonisation of heating buildings, Scottish Power Energy Networks said.

Director Scott Mathieson said it is embarking on a £5 billion upgrade plan between 2023 and 2028 which will see hundreds of miles of cables laid or reinforced and more than 700 substations upgraded.

He said the network improvements will be like upgrading a road, comparing increased electricity flow through the grid to more cars on the road.

He told the PA news agency: “Without it, it would be like having more congestion, and the more cars on the roads the more the surface breaks up, the more potholes, and the lower customer satisfaction.

“This is achievable and we need to get on and do it now.

“I think everybody is realising the necessity to address this.

“If the UK and Scotland can become a leading example in renewable power we can also export that and improve our economic outlook through this technology.

“It can be a product that the UK sells, patents can be exported and make sure we are a leading powerhouse in Europe and an example to the rest of the world.”

Some £3.5 billion will be invested in central and southern Scotland, with the rest coming in Merseyside, Cheshire, Wales and north Shropshire, with the cost to the customer at roughly an extra £5 per year over the next 45 years, he said.

As of 2011, more than nine in 10 homes in the UK were heated by gas, with heating buildings and homes “by far and away the biggest issue”, said Mr Mathieson.

He laid out his vision for more homes to be powered instead by renewable electricity-powered heat pumps, drastically cutting carbon emissions.

Between 2023 and 2028, Scottish Power Energy Networks said it aims to build more than 700 “smart substations”, 800km of cable, over 47,000 service cables and create up to 1,500 jobs across its networks in central and southern Scotland and Merseyside, Cheshire, Wales and north Shropshire.

To keep pace with net-zero targets, by 2030 it needs to be able to support up to 1.5 million new electric vehicles, up to 900,000 heat pumps and up to 7GW of new generation in its networks, the company said.

Under current plans, Scotland is aiming to become a net-zero society by 2045 – five years before the rest of the UK.

PA

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