The North of Scotland could be set for an explosion in renewables as the region becomes a major exporter of power to the rest of the UK.
Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) made the prediction in a new report setting out a range of credible scenarios for the future of energy in the area.
The company said the analysis will complement the future energy scenarios for the whole of the UK published annually by the system operator at National Grid, giving a more focused and tailored view of potential developments in the region and their implications for the transmission network.
The report describes three main scenarios – proactive decarbonisation, local optimisation and cost limitation.
As the name indicates, proactive decarbonisation is the most ambitious scenario in terms of efforts to combat climate change, exceeding emissions targets set by the Scottish and UK governments across multiple sectors. It is aligned with the UK’s commitments under the Paris agreement, which seeks to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Accordingly, there is strong government backing for both centralised and decentralised renewables. Less established technologies such as offshore wind, wave and tidal continue to receive support.
Those which are more established, namely solar and onshore wind, benefit from favourable planning, further technological developments and economies of scale, allowing them to be built without subsidies.
In this world, generation capacity nearly triples from 5.8GW currently to 15.7GW by 2025/26. At 14.3GW, almost all of this is renewables (91 per cent).
Onshore wind makes up the largest share of the total at 6.2GW (40 per cent), followed by offshore wind at 4.1GW (26 per cent) and hydro at 3.2GW (20 per cent). Wave and tidal provide 564MW (4 per cent) and solar 211MW (1 per cent).
By 2030 there are 211,000 electric vehicles (EVs) on the roads, consuming 440 GWh of electricity each year. Low-carbon heating is installed in 120,000 homes and 84,000 have solar panels. Total annual electricity demand is 4.2TWh, compared to 3.2TWh today.
In the local optimisation scenario, there is still strong progress on decarbonisation but there is also a greater emphasis on decentralisation, democratisation and affordability.
Government policy favours small-scale generation and community energy schemes, which also enjoy advantageous network charging and connection arrangements.
By the middle of the next decade, generation capacity more than doubles to 12.1GW, of which 10.7GW (88 per cent) is renewables.
There is 5.3GW of onshore wind (44 per cent), 2.3GW of both offshore wind and hydro (19 per cent each) and 534MW of wave and tidal (4 per cent). Only solar capacity is higher than in the proactive decarbonisation scenario at 261MW (2 per cent).
Annual electricity demand totals 3.7TWh by 2030, with 418 GWh coming from the 200,000 EVs being driven in the region. Solar panels are installed on 190,000 homes and 107,000 have low-carbon heating.
Decarbonisation is slowest in the cost limitation scenario as affordability is given top priority. Large-scale renewable projects are usually only built where they are viable without subsidies and there is little decentralisation.
This scenario sees by far the smallest increase in generation capacity, which rises to 8.6GW by 2025/26. Renewables provide 7.3GW (84 per cent).
Onshore wind accounts for 4.1GW (47 per cent), offshore wind for 1.2GW (14 per cent) and hydro for 1.7GW (20 per cent). There is 161MW of solar (2 per cent) and 67MW of wave and tidal (1 per cent).
With just 54,000 EVs on the roads consuming 113 GWh each year by 2030, total annual electricity demand is also lowest in this scenario at 3.4TWh. Only 1,500 homes have solar panels and less than a thousand have low-carbon heating.
Emphasising the importance of the energy industry to the regional economy, this is also the scenario in which growth is weakest.
Generation capacity by technology
Source: North of Scotland Future Energy Scenarios, SSEN
SSEN senior business insight analyst Imran Mohammed, said: “Insight into expected energy trends and likely scenarios will be vital to help us continue to meet the future needs of our customers, stakeholders and wider society.
“From this insight, we have built a picture of the range of possible scenarios our network area could face based on feedback from our key stakeholders and their ambitions for the future.”