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Beauly Denny upgrade approved

06/01/2010

The Beauly - Denny power line upgrade has been approved.

The upgrade will boost grid capacity along the line and unlock Scotland's onshore and offshore renewables potential.

Extensive conditions have been imposed to protect the interests of communities and minimise the impact on the environment along the line.

Energy Minister Jim Mather told Parliament of his decision today. He said:

"The Beauly - Denny upgrade is the most significant grid infrastructure project in a generation. Scotland's electricity network needs significant reinforcement to allow our vast renewables potential to be harnessed, transmitted and exported - currently we simply do not have the transmission capacity to carry the green energy which Scotland will generate over the coming years.

"I have considered the applications, the detailed and extensive submissions made and I have studied the findings of the Reporters and their consideration of the issues raised. I want to pay tribute to the organisations, groups and individuals who contributed to the Public Inquiry - input which has been crucial in shaping the Report and my decision.

"The Reporters recognised the pressing need to reinforce the electricity grid and found a compelling justification for the Beauly - Denny upgrade. There are very strong arguments for a whole line solution and I have therefore granted consent to upgrade this power line which will be key to unlocking Scotland's renewables potential.

"In reaching my decision, I have balanced the macro-economic need and benefits of the upgrade of the existing line and the visual and landscape impact at locations along the whole route.

"Approval is subject to a detailed and comprehensive range of conditions to protect the vital interests of communities, the environment, our cultural heritage and our tourism sector. The key to ensuring that the development is delivered appropriately across Scotland is ongoing engagement with local communities, their representatives and other key interests. The conditions require this.

"The existing overhead line will be dismantled. The replacement line will have a quarter fewer pylons. In addition, over 86 kilometres of associated wirescape feeding in to the line can be removed or improved. I have also asked for further measures to mitigate as far as possible the visual impact of the line in three separate areas - the Stirling area, near Plean and near Crieff.

"Other conditions will protect the environment and communities along the route through requirements to engage with communities, to safeguard against pollution and to provide support for local businesses.

"Our world leading Climate Change Act demands that Scotland plays its part to deliver the low carbon, secure, renewable energy future that we all aspire to. Scotland has the potential to be a European leader in clean, green energy - and we have an obligation to future generations to do so much more.

"Developing our onshore and offshore grid connections is crucial to connecting, transporting and exporting Scotland's renewable energy to the UK and Europe. The Beauly Denny upgrade will help meet that aim. There are over 50 potential projects totalling around 4.2 Gigawatts (GW) in the north of Scotland, two thirds of peak Scottish demand. That energy will further secure our supply while allowing us to continue to export the surplus.

"The Beauly-Denny upgrade will help unlock Scotland's onshore and offshore energy potential and this consent recognises the wider context, benefits and challenges of a development of this scale and opportunity."

Full background on the Beauly-Denny decision

THE APPLICATION

On September 28, 2005, Scottish Power Transmission Limited (SPT) and Scottish Hydro-Electric Transmission Limited (SHETL) applied under Section 37 of Electricity Act 1989 to install a 400 kilovolt (kV) connection between Beauly substation, near Inverness, and Denny North substation, near Falkirk.

Objections were lodged by the five relevant planning authorities - Cairngorms National Park Authority, Falkirk Council, the Highland Council, Perth & Kinross Council and Stirling Council. This automatically triggered a Public Local Inquiry which was ordered on September 29, 2006.

The application was referred to the Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals, who appointed three qualified Reporters to hear the evidence at the Public Local Inquiry and make recommendations to Ministers.

The Public Local Inquiry took place between February 6, 2007 and December 20, 2007 in five sessions to consider both strategic issues and those specific to each relevant planning authority.

THE LINE

The overhead line will be 137 miles / 220 kilometres long and will replace the existing single circuit 132kV overhead transmission line with a 400kV double circuit overhead line providing more reliable capacity.

One circuit will operate at 400kV to provide a high capacity circuit between Beauly and Denny. The other circuit will operate at 275kV, and would provide a circuit onto which much of the generation in the area between Beauly and Denny could be connected.

The upgraded line will comprise approximately 600 towers, a quarter fewer than at present. The average height will be 53 metres, compared to the current 815 towers of an average height of 33 metres. The spacing between towers on the upgraded line will average 360 metres, compared to a current average spacing of 250 metres.

Most of the new overhead line will be within one kilometre of the existing line.

The current line will be dismantled as part of the development.

CONDITIONS

Strict conditions on the development have been imposed by Ministers. These are listed in full in the consent letters issued to SPT and SHET. The conditions include:

  • Five 'wirescape rationalisation' schemes - at Stirling, Cairngorms National Park, Balblair (Highland), Errochty (Highland) and Muthill (Perthshire) - to significantly improve the landscape at these particularly sensitive locations. This involves removing or improving 86 kilometres of existing ancillary power lines, pylons and poles;
  • Three visual impact mitigation schemes to further mitigate and protect the impact of the line - in the Stirling area, at Glenside farm near Plean and at Auchilhanzie House near Crieff
  • A Tourism, Cultural Heritage and Community Liaison Group to ensure the impact of the development on tourism and historic and cultural heritage sites are considered and mitigated as any development progresses
  • An environmental liaison group to provide advice on mitigation, restoration and habitat management. The five relevant planning authorities, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Historic Scotland and the Forestry Commission will be invited to join the group
  • An independent environmental contractor to enforce compliance with a Construction Policy Handbook, a legal document agreed with Ministers on how the development is to be sensitively constructed and managed
  • A community liaison scheme requiring the applicants and their contractors to maintain close liaison with community representatives, landowners and statutory consultees throughout construction
  • Conditions to limit the environmental effects of construction including noise limitation, maintaining air quality, appropriate traffic management and protecting the water environment
  • A range of conditions relating to the protection of sensitive ecological areas and species, including mitigation to protect the integrity of European protected sites; avoiding work in bird breeding seasons; a post construction bird monitoring programme in sensitive areas; and conditions relating to the protection of otters, bats, wildcats, pine martins, red squirrels, water voles and reptiles

THE ECONOMIC BENEFITS

The scale of the investment in developing the overhead line proposal is estimated by Ofgem to be around £330 million pounds. The applicants report that between 250 to 300 people will work on the development at any one time, rising to between 450 and 500 depending on need and at peak construction periods.

POTENTIAL ALTERNATIVES

The Technical Assessor highlighted that, for undergrounding cables: "undergrounding has the potential to cause greater damage to ecology and nature conservation interests" and "underground cables are many times more expensive to install than overhead lines."

Under section 37 of the Electricity Act 1989, Scottish Ministers have power to consent or reject applications to install overhead power lines. Scottish Minsters have no powers to direct that sections of electricity infrastructure be undergrounded.

The Technical Assessor also looked at a range of sub-sea link alternatives. The Technical Assessor notes "We do not consider that (subsea alternatives) represent a realistic alternative to the Beauly - Denny proposal, as they would be neither efficient nor economic" and "the proposal to use subsea cable as an alternative…there would still be the need to reinforce the existing overhead line to harvest the generation of renewable energy between Beauly and Denny."

TIMESCALE

The upgraded line must be in place within 10 years. The consent states that construction of the line must begin within four years, and that electricity transmission should begin within six years of the start of construction.

ASSOCIATED WORKS

The project also involves the construction or upgrading of six substations at Beauly, Fasnakyle, Fort Augustus, Tummel, Braco and Denny.

Under the Town and County Planning Act, the Fasnakyle, Fort Augustus, Tummel and Braco applications have been granted the necessary planning permission by the relevant local authority.

The Highland Council initially rejected the application in respect of Beauly substation. SSE Ltd appealed that decision and, following a Public Local Inquiry in May 2008, the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Stewart Stevenson has granted planning permission.

The application into Denny North substation is a matter for Falkirk Council as planning authority and is pending decision.

Applications relating to the development for 150 necessary wayleaves - which allow access to install and maintain the line - and five Compulsory Purchase Orders covering the five planning authorities where the line will pass, will be determined in due course by the Scottish Government.

ASSOCIATED PROJECTS

The new 400kV line will be able to transmit 2.5 Gigawatts of electricity. Based on figures provided by National Grid, as at October 2009, there are around 50 potential projects at varying stages in the planning and consenting processes - amounting to around 4.2 Gigawatts of renewable generation - in the north of Scotland.

THE GRID IN SCOTLAND

The second national planning framework, approved by Parliament, sets out a range of essential grid reinforcements to provide capacity to realise the potential of Scotland's renewable energy resources, maintain long-term security of electricity supply and support sustainable economic development. The eight upgrades are:

Overhead line and substation works to increase north-south transfer capacity in Central Scotland;

  • A new 275kV South-West Scotland transmission line
  • Strengthening the Scotland - England interconnectors to increase export capacity to 3.2GW
  • Upgrading the East Coast transmission route to 400kV
  • Upgrading the existing Beauly - Dounreay overhead transmission line
  • Reinforcing the Beauly - Keith overhead transmission line
  • Reinforcing the sub-sea cable link between Orkney and the Scottish mainland; and
  • New sub-sea cable links for the Outer Hebrides and the Shetland Islands

The Scottish Government is working with the energy industry and the UK Government through the Electricity Networks Strategy Group to develop the grid infrastructure needed to meet 2020 renewables targets. The group, involving Department for Energy and Climate Change, National Grid and Ofgem is assessing a range of options for reinforcing Grid. For Scotland it focuses on grid infrastructure options to transport up to 11.4 GW of renewable energy from Scotland - with significant plans for onshore reinforcement across Scotland and developing off shore sub sea cable links between the Scottish mainland and the Islands and links to the UK for export.

GOVERNMENT TARGETS

The Scottish Government's target is to meet 50 per cent of electricity demand from renewables by 2020. In 2008, 22 per cent of electricity demand came from renewables

There is 6.5 Gigawatts of renewables capacity installed, under construction or consented around Scotland, which will take Scotland beyond the interim target of 31 per cent of Scotland's electricity demand from renewables by 2011.

The Scottish Government's Energy Consents and Deployment Unit is currently processing 39 applications (25 onshore wind, 12 hydro and two thermal), amounting to over 3 GW.

The Scottish Government has determined 33 energy applications, including approval for 28 renewable and one non-renewable project since May 2007 - more determinations than over the whole of the previous four years, in which 19 projects were determined.