The need for larger pylons and substations on agricultural land is a significant cause for concern among many farmers. Here, Nick Sharpe of trade body Scottish Renewables talks about why the infrastructure is needed.

As the trade body for the renewable energy industry in Scotland, Scottish Renewables recently published a report outlining that Scotland needs more pylons – and that it needs them now.

There are many reasons for this, but essentially Scotland’s electricity network is no longer fit for purpose and is holding back the clean power projects needed to modernise the UK’s energy supply.

Electricity infrastructure is the enabler for a clean energy future but is often overlooked.

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New power lines, pylons and substations are being built across England and Wales, and Scotland needs them too. In fact, across the UK National Grid estimates that five times more transmission lines need to be built by 2030 than have been built in the past 30 years, at a cost of more than £50 billion.

Being connected to the national electricity grid benefits everyone, giving us all instant access to as much electricity as we need, day or night.

For instance, when it’s not windy in Scotland we import power from England. Importantly, spreading different types of generation across the UK - and connecting it all together with transmission lines - means everyone is able to access electricity whenever they need it, regardless of the weather where they live.

Electricity demand is set to increase by 50% in the next decade and double by mid-century so it’s therefore wrong to say that Scottish households don’t need more power lines, pylons and substations: we need them to ensure our lights stay on in the same way consumers elsewhere in the UK need them.

SSEN Transmission has plans to invest £10 billion in the electricity grid in the north of Scotland, supporting more than 9,000 high value green Scottish jobs. Electricity infrastructure also enables thousands more jobs in new and existing renewable energy projects, from wind farm technicians to civils contractors and hotel staff.

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Building new power lines, pylons and substations is a big job, but fortunately we have a local supply chain with the expertise and experience needed to do so. In addition, both Scottish transmission operators (SSEN Transmission and SP Energy Networks) are launching, or have already launched, funds which will pay tens of millions of pounds to recognise the vital role communities will play in hosting the electricity transmission infrastructure that is required to make net-zero a reality.

Last year Scottish households, along with those across GB, paid a total of £1.9 billion to wind farms which had to be turned off because the national electricity grid couldn’t cope with the power they would have produced. Without new power lines, pylons and substations that figure could surpass £3.5 billion in 2030 - a near-£200 increase in annual electricity bills for British households. Building more electricity transmission infrastructure will reduce those payments as well as allowing more clean power generation to connect to customers, creating jobs and bringing investment to rural Scotland.

Electricity transmission infrastructure is at the heart of facilitating our journey to net-zero. New power lines, pylons and substations will connect green generation to our homes and businesses and transport the clean power required to decarbonise the heat and transport sectors. Investment in our electricity networks will be essential to unlock skills and training opportunities, deliver a boost to local supply chains and make progress towards net-zero by bringing even more renewables onto the grid.

Saying no to power lines, pylons and substations because of how they look holds back economic growth in the north of Scotland, slows our chance of tackling climate change for future generations and will mean burning more expensive gas, raising energy bills for everyone.