The Scottish government has released a new report setting out its vision for the transformation of electricity and gas networks between now and 2030.
The document describes the part networks will need to play in meeting the target from Scotland’s 2017 energy strategy of supplying half of the country’s energy needs across power, heat and transport from renewable sources by the end of the next decade.
The report says new transmission infrastructure, including power lines to remote islands, across the mainland and to the rest of Great Britain, must be built to support the growth of renewable generation. New interconnectors between Scotland and its European neighbours should also be installed to enhance the security of the system and create a wider energy market.
Local electricity networks will need to be reinforced to accommodate increasing volumes of distributed generation and cope with new sources of demand from technologies such as heat pumps and electric vehicles.
It says the transformation of distribution networks operators (DNOs) into distribution system operators (DSOs) should be delivered in a way that “provides opportunities to reward all consumers”. Flexibility from technologies such as battery storage and demand-side response will need to be leveraged to manage peaks in demand and generation.
Increasing quantities of low-carbon gases such as hydrogen, biomethane and bio-synthetic natural gas, should be injected into the grid. An evidence base should also be developed to demonstrate the “feasibility and costs” of converting gas networks to run on 100 per cent hydrogen.
Consumers and their representative should be “deeply involved” in the development of networks, “ensuring that decision-making starts from the impact of change on all consumers – especially those considered vulnerable”.
Regulation and governance will have to become more “flexible and agile” and network funding will have to balance the principle of “cost reflectivity” against the need to protect vulnerable customers. Gas and electricity networks must work closely together to coordinate their planning.
The release of the report was welcomed by Energy Networks Association chief executive David Smith, who said: “As we look towards the 2020s, the public must be at the heart of the government’s vision so we support the approach of looking at how the whole system works together to help reduce emissions and keep bills low. We agree that trials for options such as dedicated hydrogen networks will be vital to develop the solutions customers want.
“As new technologies like electric vehicles or smart hybrid heating systems are chosen, the networks are already changing the way they manage the system. We back the Scottish government’s vision for a low-carbon gas network with roles for hydrogen and biomethane along with a smart, flexible electricity network to provide the best service for the public.”