Go-ahead given for £550m Loch Ness hydro scheme

10 June 2021
Go-ahead given for £550m Loch Ness hydro scheme

The Scottish government has given the green light to a pumped storage hydro scheme at Loch Ness.

Clean energy developer ILI Group welcomes Scottish ministers’ backing for ‘Red John’, a 450MW scheme on the shores of Loch Ness. The project was subject to a public local inquiry last year with the findings and recommendation from the reporter being submitted to ministers in February 2021 for consideration. Aecom is ILI Group's engineer for the project.

ILI Group said that approval of the £550m project signals the start of a process that could see hundreds of millions of pounds invested in the local economy and bring up to 700 direct and indirect jobs alongside wider benefits to the local area and Scotland as a whole.

The company added that the broader adoption of long-duration energy storage projects such as Red John is seen as essential to the further deployment of renewable energy projects across Scotland.

ILI Group CEO Mark Wilson CEO said: “We are delighted that the cabinet secretary for net-zero, energy, and transport, Michael Matheson, has approved this project. This will help pave the way for hundreds of millions of pounds of investment and hundreds of new jobs in the area and will be another major step in Scotland’s ongoing journey to becoming a leader in renewable energy. This project alone will save over 45 million tonnes of CO2 over its lifetime.

“There is currently a pipeline of over 5GW of pumped storage in the UK but we need to work closely with the UK government to implement the market mechanisms that are needed to drive investment into these projects to ensure we hit our net zero targets”.

Cabinet secretary for net zero, energy and transport Michael Matheson said: “The Scottish government has long been supportive of pumped hydro storage for its role in ensuring resilience in our electricity supplies, and for the tremendous opportunity it provides to unlock the potential of renewable energy and support Scotland’s net zero ambitions.

“Scotland is a leader in this field, with excellent hydro-electric power heritage built over the last century and this new scheme at Loch Ness will only add to that. As we add more renewable electricity generation across Scotland, investing in pumped hydro storage will be key to balancing our electricity demand with supply and keeping the system secure, as well as creating high quality, green jobs and enabling a green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. That is why we continue to call on the UK government to take the urgent action required in reserved areas to provide investors with improved revenue certainty and unlock potentially significant investment in new pumped storage capacity in Scotland.”

Pumped storage turns electrical energy into stored (or potential) energy and back again to electrical energy. The system uses electricity to pump water from a lower reservoir to a higher reservoir at times when there is more energy being produced on the grid network than is needed. This energy is stored until it is required, when the water is allowed to flow back through a hydro-turbine, generating electricity to meet sudden or predicted spikes in consumer demand. It currently provides 94% of installed storage capacity. ILI said that pumped storage enjoys several distinct advantages over other forms of energy storage due to its long asset life, large storage capacity, long-duration storage, low-lifetime cost, and reduced dependence on imported raw materials.

Due to its intermittent nature, the rise in renewable generation has resulted in increased demand for flexible capacity to help meet energy balancing requirements for the national grid system.