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by Jamie Maxton, Head of External Relations for GB at SSE Renewables
16 October 2023
Associate Feature: Delivering homegrown clean energy for Scotland’s net zero future

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Associate Feature: Delivering homegrown clean energy for Scotland’s net zero future

Across Scotland, clean energy champion SSE Renewables owns and operates a vast portfolio of renewable energy projects that have been powering the country for decades and continue to play a vital role in the country’s energy present and future, now more than ever. 

The need for a diverse renewable energy portfolio has never been more essential to Scotland’s energy future, bolstering energy security and driving the country forward as a recognised renewable energy leader across the globe.

In 1943, the visionary Hydro Electric Development (Scotland) Act was introduced, enabling energy pioneers to harness our vast natural resource from water to bring power to the Glens and beyond. A total of 54 power stations, 78 dams and over 300km of underground tunnels were constructed, providing affordable electricity for local communities and transforming the way people lived and worked. 

Today, 80 years on, this original source of renewable energy continues to power homes and businesses across the country and is set to play a vital role in our net zero future. We are the proud custodian of some of Scotland’s most iconic hydro power sites and this fleet, which was built to last some eight decades ago, is now at the forefront of driving the transition to a decarbonised Scottish energy system. 

We are ready to put the next generation of hydro technology at the heart of Scotland’s net zero power system with our £1.5bn+ pumped hydro energy storage project, Coire Glas near Fort Augustus. If built, the project could become Britain’s biggest natural battery, doubling the UK’s current flexible electricity storage capacity. It would be capable of powering three million homes for 24 hours and would be one of the biggest investments and engineering projects in Scotland and the UK, bringing hundreds of jobs to the region and injecting millions of pounds in direct supply chain support into the economy. 

As well as our commitment to new projects like Coire Glas, we have also recently unveiled plans to convert Britain’s largest conventional hydro power station, Sloy, into a pumped hydro storage facility. This will complement Coire Glas, further strengthening Scotland’s energy security and providing additional, flexible energy that will be critical in achieving net zero. 

Our investment into Scotland’s energy future goes beyond our hydro-electric portfolio however. Over the last two decades we have been at the forefront of onshore wind delivery across the Highlands, leading the charge in harnessing Scotland’s other great natural resource, the wind. 

Over the years, our purpose has gone unchanged – to provide people with the energy they need from renewable energy. That’s why building more onshore renewable energy projects is about reaching beyond the targets and is about delivering real benefits to communities in which we work. It’s about creating social and economic value for communities in a sustainable way. 

Through our direct action and that of our supply chain, we create local jobs and make a positive contribution to the Scottish economy at both a national and local level. We see ourselves as part of the communities in which we work, and we have an ongoing commitment to share the value we’ve created. Since the inception of our community benefit funds in Scotland, we’ve donated over £60m to support our local communities.

Tackling climate change is a critical challenge that we all face. Looking ahead we all have a clear commitment to play our role in helping deliver Net Zero targets in Scotland. But it’s not just about delivering targets – it’s also, even more importantly, about delivering the homegrown clean energy we need to secure Scotland’s energy future. 

To do so we will need to deliver many more renewable energy projects across the country, in particular onshore wind energy. We also need to accelerate consenting, so that onshore wind projects which remain best placed to quickly and effectively deploy the clean green renewable energy we need, can be delivered within near term timeframes.  

We are proud to have played our role in developing, constructing and operating some of the country’s leading onshore wind sites, and in making Scotland an onshore wind world leader. Looking to our delivery portfolio, we have a secured development pipeline of just over 1GW of UK onshore wind projects which is ready to accelerate the deployment of homegrown electricity infrastructure to help strengthen energy security and reach Scottish Government net zero targets.  

Reaching Scotland’s net zero targets goes beyond harnessing the energy of the wind on land. The amount of renewable energy needed to achieve net zero requires further exploitation of the offshore winds around Scotland.

Twenty years ago, we embarked on our journey into offshore wind and today we’re at the forefront of leading Scotland’s offshore wind revolution. In that time, we have made massive strides in the industry and now we’re leading the construction of £12bn in new offshore wind farms in UK waters. This includes Seagreen off the Angus coast, now Scotland’s largest and the world’s deepest fixed bottom offshore wind farm, on which we have just completed construction, as well as Dogger Bank off the Yorkshire coast, where we’re building the world’s largest offshore wind farm using some of the world’s largest turbines in operation. 

But we want and need to build more Seagreens and Dogger Banks. That’s why we’re progressing one of the largest near-term offshore wind pipelines in the UK including our 500MW Seagreen 1A project and our massive 4.1GW Berwick Bank super project, each off the east coast of Scotland, and our 504MW North Falls project off the east coast of England. Berwick Bank would be the largest single offshore wind farm currently being developed in the UK and is pushing new frontiers in technological and sustainable delivery. The delivery of a super project like Berwick Bank could cement Scotland’s status as a true global leader in offshore wind. 

Looking to the next generation of offshore wind, we’re progressing plans for our Ossian project, a ScotWind project which will be our first global-scale venture into using floating technologies.
This unrivalled development pipeline is at the heart of SSE’s overall Net Zero Acceleration Programme Plus which will see the company invest £18bn to 2027, the equivalent of £10 million each day on average, in the UK and Ireland, with much of this economic boost to be felt across Scotland. 

This plan will be crucial in turning Scottish Government targets from ambition into reality. We are leading the way in addressing problems like the climate emergency by delivering offshore projects on a global scale. We are on the cutting edge of development and construction and being the first to deploy the newest technologies available. 

We are dealing in actions, not words. Our pipeline of hydro, onshore and offshore wind projects are what will put Scotland at the forefront of the renewable energy revolution and ensure the country is seen as a global leader in this space. We are capitalising on Scotland’s natural resources by harnessing the power of the ever-present wind, deploying hydro power at the flick of a switch for those days when the wind isn’t blowing, and now progressing with a 1.2GW secured pipeline of utility-scale solar and battery projects in the UK to complete our diverse portfolio of renewable energy assets.

The world needs action at scale to deliver a sustainable future for the planet, and our people at SSE Renewables will be at the forefront of leading this charge for the next 80 years and beyond. 

Jamie Maxton is Head of External Relations for GB at SSE Renewables

This article is sponsored by SSE Renewables

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