In the early 1990's, when Scotland was on the cusp of power privatisation the energy map appeared a lot simpler than it does now. What has changed? The National Grid whose control room is in Workingham, England now operates the Scottish Electricity Transmission Network. The actual network does continue to be owned by ScottishPower and SSE. As owners, they are now faced with investment decisions on the network that will set out the stability of the Scottish electricity system over the next decades. Ofgem, as part of their national 'road show consultation' recently travelled to Scotland to take views on network access and charging. The trenchant view coming from the Scottish government being that there needs to be a more equitable system of charging for transmission of power which gives Scotland a level playing field in terms of generation with the rest of Great Britain.
So-called zonal charging has been with us since the early 1990's and it is designed to incentivise generation to move to where the population of Great Britain locates itself. From a purely GB power point of view generation is located in the wrong place. The difficulty that exists from a planning perspective is that the minute generation creeps close to the centres of population, they object to its location even if the generation is environmentally clean, such as a wind farm.
EDF's recent bid for British Energy came with an announced commitment to build new nuclear power stations which were interestingly looking to exploit existing planning consents rather than seek the long process of obtaining consents from scratch. In Scotland, planning is reserved to the Scottish government, which gives them the interest in the siting of any power station not just nuclear. The challenge will be what Scotland does over the next decade or so to address security of supply and assist in the stability issues that concern us all.
James Saunders is a partner specialising in energy law at leading UK law firm Shepherd and Wedderburn LLP.