European Investment Bank provides £500 million for grid connector in the Highlands of Scotland

ERI post 08-04-2016
A view across the Moray Firth to Caithness, the stretch of water where the cables will be laid.

Since the March 11th blog post on the need for grid connection to Scottish Islands the European Investment Bank (EIB) has agreed to provide £500 million (€618 million) of investment to improve the transmission network in northern Scotland.

The €618 million represents the largest investment in the electricity network in the north of Scotland for 60 years and includes a new 1200 MW subsea cable between Spittal in Caithness and Blackhillock in Moray. The laying of the subsea cable and associated onshore infrastructure works are expected to support 600 jobs during the construction phase.

The EIB Vice President Jonathan Taylor described infrastructure investment such as this as “essential to harness the full potential of new and future renewable energy schemes”, and went on to say that the “investment will ensure more efficient transmission of green energy, enable increased use of renewable power in Scotland and secure energy supply to the Highlands and Scotland’s cities.”

This will be important if Scotland is to realise its target of generating the equivalent of 100% of electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020. Scotland is currently on track to achieve this, having provided the equivalent to 57% of its electricity demand from renewable sources in 2015, according to the most recent Department of Energy and Climate Change figures. However, recent government cuts to renewable subsidy are likely to make further progress more challenging.

Whilst the investment in a subsea cable is a good news story for future renewable development in the UK, it is worth remembering that the UK is holding a referendum in June over whether to stay in the EU. The EIB is the world’s largest international public bank and is 16.1% owned by the UK government but if the UK was to leave it would no longer have a share. This would of course mean the EIB would not invest in the UK at anything like this scale, if at all, in the future.

The UK has received notable investment from the EIB over the years, particularly when it comes to energy; this is summarised in the table below.

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