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Renewables, EVs and whole-system strategy: Scotland unveils 2030 networks vision

Image: Getty.

Image: Getty.

Scotland’s government has unveiled its vision for the country’s energy networks out to 2030, detailing how its pipes and wires can facilitate a radical and ambitious shift to cleaner energy.

Earlier this week the Scottish government unveiled its networks vision for 2030, detailing how the country’s energy networks will support the transition to decarbonised, decentralised resources over the next decade.

The vision essentially details how the government expects Scotland’s transmission and distribution networks to ensure the energy transition is inclusive of all bill payers, adopts a whole-system approach to be as synergistic as possible and to ensure smarter, local energy models are adopted wherever possible.

This will affect the transmission and distribution networks in different ways, with the government placing separate requirements on each.

Scotland’s transmission network will be engineered to reflect the system’s “changing dynamics”, featuring new infrastructure that ensures Scotland’s renewable energy ambitions are met, and with new and stronger interconnections between Scotland and Europe.

There will be more pressing requirements on Scotland’s distribution networks – managed by SSEN and SPEN – as they play a more critical role within a more decentralised power system.

Scotland’s vision requires distribution networks to possess sufficient capacity to meet demand for distributed generation, a managed Distribution System Operator (DSO) transition which engages and rewards consumers, new demand management platforms and technologies to alleviate peaks in demand and generation and a carefully navigated and the ability to help ensure investment can flow into EV infrastructure.

When it comes to how the next decade is managed or coordinated, the Scottish government has placed considerable importance on whole system planning, ensuring that electricity and gas network plans are coordinated to deliver as many benefits as possible.

A foreword written by Scotland’s energy minister Paul Wheelhouse said that the government’s vision highlighted the “growing complexity, technical challenges, structural changes and new technologies” which stood to “fundamentally alter the relationship between consumers and the networks”.

The vision has been well received by the renewables lobby, with Scottish Renewables chief executive Claire Mack applauding it for addressing the important role the networks will play in shifting towards a cleaner, smarter system.

“With the majority of our electricity now coming from renewable sources it is essential that the Scottish Government take an active role in networks policy and regulation if we are to meet our 2030 energy strategy objectives – particularly the target that 50% of all our energy should come from renewables by 2030.

“The Networks Vision places renewables at the heart of the energy transition and focuses on a whole system approach across heat, transport and electricity which will help facilitate the development of an infrastructure which benefits all Scotland’s communities.

Its publication was also welcomed by David Smith, chief executive at the Energy Networks Association, who narrowed in on the need for consumers to be placed at the heart of the energy transition.

“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,” he said.

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