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Approval for £800m hydro scheme but SSE not yet ready to commit

16 Dec 13 The Scottish government has given its approval to an £800m hydroelectric project in the Highland region but developer Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) says it will not commit to starting the project until 2015 at the earliest.

Planning consent was granted on Friday for a hydroelectric pumped storage generating station at Coire Glas, near Spean Bridge. The pump storage station would consist of a dam and reservoir at Loch a ’Choire Ghlais, an underground cavern power station and underground tunnel system and an outlet area on the shore of Loch Lochy, north of Fort Willliam.

SSE said that Coire Glas would be the first new large scale pumped storage scheme to be developed in Great Britain for more than 30 years. It would have a generating capacity of up to 600MW, with an energy storage capacity of up to 30GWh. It will have the potential to provide up to 10% of Scotland’s estimated peak electricity demand.

In a statement, SSE said: “Despite the obvious benefits that pumped storage offers, making a final investment decision to progress the Coire Glas scheme will require overcoming a number of commercial and regulatory challenges. These include changes in the existing transmission charging regime for pumped storage and a satisfactory and supportive long-term public policy and regulatory framework. Therefore any final investment decision is unlikely before 2015 at the earliest.”

The construction programme would last five or six years.

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Scotland’s energy minister Fergus Ewing said: “A development like this offers a fantastic boost to the ambitions of the Scottish government to increase the proportion of electricity generated using renewable resources because it helps deal with the variability of renewables. When the wind blows, excess energy can be used to pump water up into the vast store, and when the wind yield is low the station can be brought on line to provide the electricity needed. This is precisely the kind of development and capacity which the UK government’s electricity market reforms must be designed to provide sufficient support.”

Jim Smith, managing director of SSE Renewables, said: “Pump storage hydro electric schemes are an excellent means of energy storage and already play an important role in meeting customer’s peak demand for electricity in the UK. They also naturally complement the variable output from other renewable sources such as wind.

“The combination of the size, flexibility and short response time means that Coire Glas could provide a range of benefits across the whole GB electricity system in a way that no other proven technology can. Millions of households and businesses could benefit from this project.

“The consent for Coire Glas is therefore very positive, but before SSE can make a decision to invest in the project there are some major hurdles to overcome. SSE is now keen to engage further with both the UK and Scottish governments, as well as other relevant organisations, to develop an appropriate solution to address the commercial challenges that could enable what would be an important asset for the UK energy system to progress.”

How the scheme would work:

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