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The battle for transmission access

For the first time, public electricity suppliers in England and Wales will buy renewable electricity generated in Scotland if three wind projects with contracts awarded under the latest Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation (NFFO-5) go ahead. Until now the NFFO has operated exclusively in England and Wales, but alongside the separate Scottish Renewables Order. Yet there has been no rule to preclude power plants in Scotland from supplying electricity to England under a NFFO power purchase contract.

The main disadvantage of locating in Scotland is the lack of capacity on the interconnector that links the Scottish and English distribution systems and the high fee demanded by Scottish utilities for wheeling power to the border. "It is excessive," claims Geraint Jewson from the Renewable Development Company, which won a NFFO-5 contract for a 65 MW wind farm at Corbie Shank, near Langholm, in Dumfries and Galloway.

The issue of lack of interconnector capacity looks set to be resolved before the end of the year. The Office of Electricity Regulation (OFFER) is considering complaints against ScottishPower, which wants the capacity allocated to its transmission business and thus reserved for its own generation. According to OFFER, its ruling on the issue will decide once and for all how the capacity allocations are calculated and apportioned. Meanwhile, work by the National Grid Company on reinforcing the network in the north of England will increase power flows through the interconnector from 1200 MW up to 1600 MW.

Bypassing the grid

RDC plans a solution, however, that will bypass Scottish Power's grid system altogether. "The option we are considering is building a line ourselves," says Jewson. This would link the project to England's distribution system -- more than 50 kilometres from the site.

Mark Oldridge of Angold Associates also won a NFFO-5 contract for a 52 MW project destined for the same area in Dumfries and Galloway. His bid was made based on use of the interconnector. Oldridge is a consultant who has a background of planning and development for the aggregates mining industry. His scheme at Haggy Hill is close enough to RDC's project to favour a joint collaboration on building a new transmission line. But having won three other NFFO-5 contracts -- and with a five year window for development -- he is not in a hurry to get power from Scotland to England.

One company for whom building a separate line is not an option is Atlantic Energy. It has a contract for 30 MW on the Gordonbush Estate near Brora, Highland Region, in the far north east of Scotland. Access to the interconnector is crucial, admits Charmian Larke from Atlantic Energy, based in Cornwall.

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