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Energy Minister Michael Fallon Marks Construction of £1.3billion Cross-Border Sub-Sea Electricity Link


ScottishPower Energy Networks today confirmed 450 jobs will be supported during the construction of the first sub-sea electricity link between Scotland and England/Wales. The announcement came as Energy Minister Michael Fallon officially marked the start of construction in Scotland on the £1.3billion Western Link HVDC project, where he met with Iberdrola and ScottishPower Chairman Ignacio Galan.

Mr Galan also outlined further progress on ScottishPower Energy Network’s current £2.6 billion investment programme in transmission network upgrades to 2021, and proposed investments of around £5 billion between 2015 and 2023, across its UK distribution networks in central and southern Scotland, Merseyside and North Wales. This total planned investment will create thousands of jobs over the next decade. Mr Fallon and Mr Galan met with apprentices and engineers who will be working on the cross border project and helping to deliver the major investments over the next 10 years.

Construction work has now commenced on the ‘North Shore Convertor Station’ at Hunterston in Ayrshire, which will form part of the Western Link HVDC project, a joint venture between ScottishPower and National Grid. In total around 260 miles of high voltage sub-sea cable will be installed, running from the West Coast of Scotland to Connah’s Quay on the North Wales coast. 

The link will increase the capacity of electricity flowing between England and Scotland by more than 2,000 megawatts (MW), enough capacity to meet the electricity demands of over 4 million homes per year. The project, which is due to be fully operational in 2016, is bi-directional, allowing electricity to flow north or south according to future supply and demand. The £1billion main contract to build the Western Link has been awarded to a consortium of Siemens and Prysmian.

Iberdrola and ScottishPower Chairman Ignacio Galan, said: “We are pleased to mark the start of construction on this hugely ambitious sub-sea electricity connection project. Our engineers are currently delivering some of the most important upgrades to the electricity network for more than half a century, with billions of pounds being invested and thousands of jobs being supported and created. We are planning a total investment in excess of £10 billion by the end of the decade, with the majority on network upgrades and renewable energy projects.

“The Western Link project will act as a benchmark for similar developments around the world, as the deployment of this technology at such a large scale has never been undertaken before. This will help to increase energy security across the UK, and will benefit the people of Scotland, England and Wales.”

Energy Minister Michael Fallon said: “The western link is a perfect symbol of the single energy market, of which Scotland is part. It will enable English and Welsh consumers to access Scottish renewables and enable Scots to benefit from base load power when the wind doesn’t blow. This world leading, billion pound under-sea connector shows the strength of our current integrated system.”

As well as visiting ScottishPower’s training headquarters, Michael Fallon was taken by helicopter to view the start of work at the Hunterston site. The tour also included an overview of progress at a major new transmission substation in Denny, which will support the new Beauly to Denny high voltage power line that is currently under construction, as well as a visit over the UK’s largest onshore windfarm at Whitelee, South of Glasgow. The new Western Link will be able to export greater quantities of renewable energy from Scotland to the rest of the UK, including power produced at sites like Whitelee.

The Western Link project is a part of ScottishPower Energy Network’s wider £2.6 billion investment plans for their transmission network covering the 8-year period from 2013 to 2021 which will deliver:

  • Creation of up to 1,500 new jobs in the ScottishPower Transmission licence area
  • Facilitate offshore and onshore wind generation in Scotland of around 11 GW (enough to power over 6 million homes)
  • Over £2 billion in reduced carbon emissions (equivalent to 45 million tonnes of CO2)
  • Increase in export capacity from Scotland to England from 3.3 GW to close to 7GW by 2021
  • Reduce constraint costs to the UK consumer by £1.7 billion
  • Renewal and replacement of over 15% of our existing substation assets
  • Replacement of around 800 km of overhead line
  • Modernise the network to ensure that the excellent security of supply and reliability presently enjoyed in the SPT area is maintained.