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Network for net zero: SSEN establishes five goals for RIIO-T2 business plan

Image: SSEN.

Image: SSEN.

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) has outlined how it plans to create a transmission network fit for net zero, unveiling its detailed RIIO-T2 business plan.

Yesterday the transmission system operator (TSO), which is responsible for maintaining the north of Scotland’s transmission network, published its RIIO-T2 business plan, a pivotal document for the TSO’s programme of works for the years 2021 - 2026.

The company has placed five clear goals in place that the company wants to achieve in those five years, namely;

  • Transport the renewable power for 10 million homes
  • Maintain 100% network reliability for homes and businesses
  • Deliver every connection on time
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one-third
  • Achieve £100 million in efficiency savings through innovation

The business plan itself is divided into four strategic themes, which are;

  • A stakeholder-led strategy that takes a whole system approach to network operation, ensuring energy networks are built and operated to meet the needs of both current and future customers.

SSEN has put together a new stakeholder engagement strategy, developed it said through a comprehensive review of best practice, in order to ensure stakeholder value using new purposes, ambitions, objectives and principles.

Building on its current experience, the network operator intends to develop consistent and transparent processes which ultimately contribute towards a “culture of engagement”. A training programme for employees will be put into place.

This, in turn, will feed into a connections and commercial policy linking back to its goal of delivering every connection on time, with the customer experience at its heart.

  • Ensuring safe and secure network operation, using data efficiently to properly understand, predict and get optimal performance out of network infrastructure, particularly when it comes to high-voltage transmission networks.

SSEN said ensuring that the north of Scotland’s transmission infrastructure is resilient to threats that might result in “attack, damage or destruction” was imperative to its business model, adding that it followed the Cabinet Office’s four principles for infrastructure resilience, namely; reliability, resistance, redundancy and response & recovery.

Those four components are to be enforced through targeted, cost-effective actions, using both data and new technology to ensure that homes and businesses are not affected by power cuts.

To this end, SSEN is expecting to spend some £900 million over the five-year RIIO-T2 period on network resilience.

  • Sector leading efficiency using an integrated approach to the whole life development and operation of network infrastructure, especially when it comes to delivering affordable services to generators and customers.

Speaking of its responsibility to ensure investments are efficient and justified, SSEN said it wants to invest in the right things at the right time. It has placed pragmatism at the heart of its investment decisions and will only do so where there is “sufficient confidence” that investment is essential to maintain and grow its network.

However forecasted changes in generation and demand must feed into this, particularly when it comes to the necessary acceleration in renewable power. SSEN expects renewables connected to its transmission network to soar from the 3.3GW connected in 2013 to 6.7GW by 2021 and 10GW by 2026.

A new innovation policy has been established at the company to ensure that it can deliver £100 million of efficiency savings through innovation in the next RIIO period. Having used new techniques to offset network reinforcements - saving £29 million - in RIIO-T1, SSEN is keen to follow up on this success.

  • And leadership in sustainability, becoming a trusted partner of customers and communities to realise long-term benefits for society, the economy and the environment.

SSEN intends to take a holistic approach to sustainability, stressing that the matter “extends beyond climate change”. Its focus will also extend beyond standalone decarbonisation targets and include activities that consider social, economic and environmental issues.

Six ambitions have been highlighted, namely tackling climate change, connecting for society, supporting communities, promoting the natural environment, optimising resources and growing careers, all of which are discussed at length within the network operator’s business plan.

But the crucial element of the firm’s business plan, and one that sits ultimately within the RIIO-2 framework, is SSEN’s commitment to deliver all of those benefits for around £7 per customer per year, a cost considered to be affordable and acceptable to the TSO’s customers.

This is inevitably an increase on the firm’s current annual customer cost - around £4.72 - however SSEN is endeavouring to increase consumer trust in networks by being more transparent in how it reports network expenditure.

Having published the plan this week, SSEN is now embarking on a two-month long engagement and consultation programme, taking into account a range of stakeholders with regional roadshows planned.

Rob McDonald, managing director at SSEN Transmission, described the plans as a blueprint for continued investment in a flexible, safe and secure, low carbon electricity network.

“Our ‘Network for Net Zero’ proposal is a balanced package that makes a powerful case for the vital investment needed to deliver the clean energy transition, reflecting the ambition our stakeholders have told us they want to see, at an affordable cost to consumers, whilst also providing a fair return to investors,” he said.

SSEN’s full business plan, including its consultation questions, can be read here.

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