Moray Firth subsea cable approved

Thanet Offshore Wind Farm SSE said the subsea cable would support planned renewable energy projects in the Moray Firth area

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A planned subsea electricity cable connecting two sides of the Moray Firth has been given approval by the industry regulator.

The 100-mile underground and subsea line, between Caithness and Moray, could add 1.2 gigawatts of new renewable energy capacity to the grid.

Green energy schemes proposed for the area include plans for more than 300 wind turbines off the Moray Firth.

SSE said Ofgem's approval of the scheme meant it could be finished in 2018.

The project is being led by SSE subsidiary Scottish Hydro Electricity Transmission (SHE) which said the subsea line would help meet targets to generate more renewable power, at a lower cost to customers.

Martin Crouch, from energy regulator Ofgem, said: "This is a major step forward for an essential upgrade to the high-voltage grid so that more renewable energy can connect to the networks.

"Today's decision means that the company can move forward with work on the upgrade.

"We have already started on the next phase of checking SHE's spending plans and we will ensure it completes the work as efficiently as possible so that consumers pay a fair price for this."

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: "If Scotland is to fully tap into the massive renewable energy resources that lie both on and offshore then we need to see new or improved transmission connections like this one.

"However, to fully unlock Scotland's renewable potential we need to see electricity transmission charges that do not unduly penalise some of the best locations to generate clean energy in the entire UK.

"We therefore also welcome the news that Ofgem has listened and acted on the calls that we and others have made to improve the transmission charging regime."

Fraser Grieve, Highlands and Islands director of the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, said it was a "welcome step".

He added: "By both increasing the capacity and the resilience of the transmission network investors should now have more confidence to push forward with renewable energy developments."

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