Scottish Power and SSE's power upgrade fast-tracked

Image caption Scotland's high-voltage electricity network would be upgraded

Plans for a multi-billion pound investment in high-voltage power cabling throughout Scotland are to be fast-tracked by the energy regulator.

Ofgem said the plans would assist with meeting renewable energy targets.

Scotland's biggest power firms, Scottish Power and SSE, want to upgrade their ageing power grid but they need the energy regulator to agree.

Ofgem will fast-track the proposals because they are satisfied they will be good value for consumers.

The regulator has to approve the investment as it is partly funded from customers utility bills.

In England and Wales, the electricity transmission network is run by National Grid.

However, in Scotland major power supply firms Scottish Power and SSE are also responsible for the electricity network.

Scottish Power's SP Transmission Ltd (SPTL) delivers power to south and central Scotland while SSE's Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission Ltd (SHETL) focuses on areas north of Perth.

Image caption Indicative map of major high voltage projects proposed by SP and SHETL within 2013-2021

Scottish Power described the plans as "the most important upgrades to the electricity network in central and southern Scotland for more than 50 years".

It said a key element of the plans was the connection of offshore and onshore wind generation in Scotland of about 11GW - enough to power more than six million homes.

The proposals would also increase the export capacity from Scotland to England from 3.3GW to close to 7GW by 2021.

They would see the replacement of about 800km of overhead line and the renewal and replacement of more than 15% of existing substations.

The plans by the two power giants could mean as much as £7bn of investment over the next decade, to improve the transmission network.

An estimated that 1,500 jobs could be created.

SHETL said its business plan was for a £1.1bn capital investment programme.

However, it had the flexibility to increase this by up to a further £4bn, to upgrade the transmission network in the north of Scotland during 2013 - 2021.

Red tape

Mark Mathieson, SSE's managing director, Networks, said: "The fast tracking of SHETL's business plan means we can now focus on delivery; confident that the required funding is in place, a clear mechanism has been created to deal with the uncertainties of investing over this time frame, and that an overall positive investment climate has been established."

Frank Mitchell, CEO of ScottishPower Energy Networks, said: "This agreement will ensure the best value for consumers, whilst guaranteeing a modern and robust electricity system capable of supporting the UK's and Scotland's ambitious carbon reduction targets."

Alistair Buchanan, chief executive of Ofgem, said fast-tracking the proposals, which will see final plans published by April, would cut "red tape".

Mr Buchanan said the upgraded network would "greatly assist" connections to renewable generators.

Ofgem said the plans provided good value for consumers, "delivering essential upgrades to Scotland's transmission network at the lowest cost to consumers".

The watchdog estimated the cost to consumers' bills would be 35p a year over the eight-year period of the price control, 2013 - 2021.

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