New subsea cables can help to ‘alleviate energy crisis’

Anas Sarwar hits out at Sturgeon over offshore wind plots

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The UK is poised for a major energy boost that could help to “directly alleviate” the current crisis via four high-voltage subsea cables that will bring cheap electricity from wind farms in Scotland onto the rest of the UK grid. To help accelerate the clean energy drive amid a crisis sparked by the soaring price of fossil fuels, Ofgem has approved the need for four new high-voltage subsea cables that will send electricity from wind farms to the National Grid.

One of the cables has been a topic of discussion for 17 years and would link the Western Isles of Scotland with the Scottish mainland. The 1.8GW subsea HVDC cable would go from Arnish in Lewis in the Western Isle to the Scottish mainland, delivering electricity to a substation at Beauly in the Highlands.

This link is expected to lead to a major expansion of onshore and offshore wind projects in the region. According to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the island’s local authority, it would harness 420MW of onshore wind generation in Lewis and 1.3GW of offshore wind generation.

Another two of the proposed cables with 2GW capacity would link Peterhead in Aberdeenshire with England. These will both be taken forward as joint ventures with National Grid Electricity Transmission. Under the plans, another cable would run from Spittal in Caithness to Peterhead.

Electricity firm SSEN Transmission said the projects could lead to “directly alleviating the UK’s energy crisis”. It added that the wider SSE Group’s investment could surpass £24billion this decade.

Rob McDonald, managing of SSEN Transmission, said: “Today’s publication of the ASTI Framework is a critical milestone to support our collective net zero and energy security ambitions and we welcome Ofgem’s approval of the need for the investments required to deliver 2030 offshore wind targets.”

Paul Steele, leader of the Comhairle, said: “The islands have waited a long time for this excellent news.

“The potential for the Western Isles to be a world-class resource in renewable energy has long been talked about and that potential can now be delivered for the benefit of the climate, UK energy security and our island economy.”

This also comes as UK billpayers are currently forking out (on average) double the amount for their energy bills compared with last year due to Russia’s war in Ukraine and his supply cuts to Europe.

 This has laid bare the UK’s exposure to volatile fossil fuel markets. These markets are global, meaning Britain has little control over them and is unable to prevent price spikes that get passed onto consumers and added to their bills.

But it is now widely recognised that if the UK slashes its dependence on gas and oil and instead focuses on clean, homegrown sources of energy, Britain would not need to import expensive fuels, likely keeping bills down while also helping the country race to net zero.

The UK is already a leader in offshore wind, but is hoping to rapidly accelerate its capacity to further push ahead and unlock cheaper bills for millions of Britons. Expert analysis by the Carbon Brief recently found that offshore wind energy is nine times cheaper than recent gas prices.

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And the Scottish project is not the only plan the UK has bring cheap wind energy to its shores via subsea cables. Britain is also working on a Morocco-UK Power Project which, once online, will see a low-cost, reliable energy supply for seven million Britons.

The £18billion project would see four 3,800km long cables would bring energy from generated from solar and wind farms in the Saraha to Hunterston in Britain. The Moroccan site in the Guelmim-Oued Noun region has been chosen as Xlinks plots to build 12 million solar panels and up to 530 windfarms across a 960 sq km stretch of the desert.

Project Director for XLCC, Alan Mathers, has previously said: “We look forward to delivering a factory of great local and international importance for HVDC subsea cable. The UK will be positioned as a world leader in the green economy, with the site at Hunterston playing a key role in connecting cheap, green energy from renewables projects around the world. We would like to thank the local community for their support during the consultation process.”

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