SCOTLAND can help the UK achieve net zero carbon emissions by connecting renewable energy sources to the national grid, but it will cost at least £2.4 billion, according to a new plan from SSEN.

SSEN says the plan will add only £2 a year to the average customer’s bill, but will make a major contribution to the UK and Scottish Government commitments to achieving net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050 and 2045 respectively.

In a pitch to regulator Ofgem for the next price control period which will run from 2021 through to 2026, the company says its plans for electricity transmission in the north of Scotland and remote islands include upgrading distribution lines down the Est coast of Scotland from Peterhead to the central belt with higher capacity cables – allowing more power to be transmitted south from offshore windfarms and ultimately to the national grid.

Another key part of the plan is to upgrade cables currently connecting Fort Augustus to Skye, which have reached the end of their life and are currently over-capacity – enabling the development of windfarms connecting to the network on Skye.

In a document submitted to the energy regulator yesterday, SSEN says it will reduce greenhouse emissions by a third, connect new providers and customers to the network on time and transport renewable energy to power 10 million homes. Rob McDonald, Managing Director for SSEN Transmission, said the North of Scotland was vital to efforts to cut emissions for the whole of the UK. “With our network region home to some of the UK’s greatest resources of renewable energy we have a critical role to play in the fight to prevent the worst effects of climate change, connecting up more renewable energy and transporting it across the country,” he said.

The proposed developments will mean a minimum total expenditure of £2.4bn over five years. A spokesman for SSEN said additional costs would be contingent on issues such as whether certain windfarms go ahead: “It is anticipated additional investment will be required to deliver the transition to net zero, but this investment will only be released once there is certainty it is needed – protecting billpayers.

SSEN Transmission also aims to contribute to climate goals by cutting its own greenhouse gas emissions by a third - primarily by decarbonising its vehicles and cleaning up the fluorinated gases used in its network infrastructure.

As part of Ofgem’s consideration of the final plan, the regulator will consult with stakeholders such as consumers, renewables firms and environmental groups next year before deciding what level of investment should be taken forward from 2021 through to 2026.

Environmental campaigners will be keen to see the regulator prioritise the reduction of emissions, but Ofgem is also likely to be concerned to limit the cost to bill-payers.

Nicholas Gubbins, chief executive of Community Energy Scotland said issues like fuel poverty needed to be balanced with climate goals. “There are significant concerns about higher fuel costs in the north of Scotland, for example and Ofgem will need to weigh those against the urgent need for decarbonisation,” he said.

Morag Watson, Director of Policy at Scottish Renewables, said to achieve net zero by 2045, the UK needed to quadruple its renewable electricity generation capacity, according to a report from the Committee on Climate Change . “SSEN’s commitment to invest a minimum of £2.4 billion in reinforcing the grid in the north of Scotland, where much of our renewable energy resource – our wind, rainfall, tides and more – is located marks a key step on the path to net-zero, as well as in supporting the transition to low-carbon transport,” she said.

“The company’s commitment to deliver every connection on time is particularly welcome, as obtaining access to the electricity network is one of the key challenges faced by renewable electricity generators, adding cost to projects and delaying the environmental benefits which their operation delivers.”