A Vision for Scotland’s Gas and Electricity Networks

13 Mar 2019

Author:

Simon Gill, Scottish Government

On Tuesday, Scottish Government published a Vision for Scotland’s Gas and Electricity Networks to 2030. The vision was launched by Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, at the Scottish Renewables Annual Conference. I was pleased to see positive reaction from network companies, consumer representatives and others.

This is the culmination of a year’s work and meets one of the actions we set out in the Scottish Energy Strategy. The vision reflects the central role that the gas and electricity networks play in delivering an essential service: affordable, reliable and increasingly low carbon energy to consumers and business across Scotland.

Electricity and gas networks will be critical to delivering the ambition of Scotland’s Energy Strategy and Scottish Government's wider energy policy initiatives. The way we are using these networks is changing – from electric vehicles charging from the electricity networks, to biomethane and hydrogen in the gas grid. To accommodate these changes, the way these networks are planned, regulated and operated will need to adapt.

The implications of change

There is the potential for fundamental changes here. For example Ofgem is currently developing its thoughts on how the costs of networks are recovered from consumers, and what rights of access consumers, generators and flexibility providers (like batteries) will have to the electricity networks in future. Changing the right of access to a network which is central to such an essential service feels to me like something that we need to discuss and debate widely within the industry and across society. Similarly, understanding the implications of these changes for security of electricity of supply will be important.

How some of these changes impact on consumers, communities and business will depend on the way the electricity distribution networks develop. It is widely expected that there will be more local trading of electricity and ‘flexibility’ in order to manage the limits of the networks. We expect to see meaningful demonstrations of some of the aspects of this ‘DSO’ world happening in Scotland, building on work such as the Access project linking local generation and demand across the Scottish and Southern Energy Networks distribution network on the Island of Mull. Projects such as SP Energy Networks Fusion project offer the opportunity to test some of the ways we will need to coordinate demand, generation and flexibility.

Decarbonising gas in the network

In terms of gas, there are opportunities today to decarbonise the gas that flows through the networks. Today, there are 15 biomethane sites in Scotland producing low carbon gas and injecting it into the gas distribution networks. The gas networks also have the potential to be used to transport hydrogen produced in low carbon ways, either blended with natural gas, or on its own. All of the gas network companies across Britain are contributing to work which will help us understand the costs and technical feasibility of full scale conversion of existing parts of the gas network, and in Scotland SGN are developing the H100 which is looking to demonstrate a 100% hydrogen network in Scotland. Understanding the evidence from these projects will be critical to developing our strategy for the long-term decabronisation of heat across Scotland and the UK.

As we discuss in the vision, we look forward to working with UK Government, Ofgem, the network companies and representatives of everyone who uses these networks. I’d also like to thank everyone who contributed to our thinking on the vision, we spoke to many people across the whole of the energy system. We look forward to carrying on that conversation!
 

Access the full strategy and summary document here.