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Meeting Scotland’s peak demand for electricity

Gill, Simon and Bell, Keith (2017) Meeting Scotland’s peak demand for electricity. [Report]

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Abstract

The closure of Longannet in 2016 raised debate about the ability of Scotland to meet its peak demand for electricity. Given Scotland’s transmission links to the rest of Great Britain and the interconnection with Northern Ireland, how likely is it that the remaining generation fleet in Scotland can meet peak demand? The research we present in this report suggests that the answer in early 2017 is: extremely likely. However, between now and 2030 major changes are expected to the Scottish electricity system: Hunterston and Torness nuclear stations are both expected to close by 2030, there is no certainty over the long term future of Peterhead gas power station, the capacity of wind generation is expected to grow, and the size of the peak demand is also likely to grow. The result is that flows of electricity across the transmission network will be considerably more variable, from large exports when it is windy to large imports when it is calm. Towards the end of the 2020s, at the latest, it is likely either new transmission links with the rest of Great Britain, or new generation capacity that is capable of being scheduled in advance will be required to ensure Scotland’s peak demand security-of-supply. Existing policy for planning the transmission network is based on a standard that was designed for a system where flows of electricity were more predictable and consistent than is the case today. This study analyses the level of transmission import capability and investigates the following question: What transmission import capability is required into Scotland in order to provide confidence that peak-demand for electricity can be met?