In a bid to combat the climate emergency and achieve a fully decarbonized electricity system, Humza Yousaf, First Minister of Scotland, has called on UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to provide support for pumped storage hydropower through a market mechanism. The move aims to bolster the integration and optimization of renewable energy sources while ensuring grid stability and security of supply.

Scotland seeks to leverage its abundant renewable resources to facilitate the transition to a net zero electricity system across Great Britain. While the expansion of renewable energy plays a vital role in reducing reliance on fossil fuels, the Scottish government emphasizes the significance of large-scale, long-duration energy storage in achieving collective environmental goals.

In a letter to the PM, Yousaf has urged the UK government to back the development of long-duration energy storage, including pumped storage hydropower, by implementing an appropriate market support mechanism. Industry representatives have underscored the need for a cap-and-floor mechanism that guarantees a minimum level of revenue to drive the progress of long-duration energy storage solutions. By introducing the necessary market support mechanism, numerous pumped hydro storage projects across Scotland that have already secured planning permission could commence construction promptly, said Yousaf. These projects would provide essential resilience and flexibility as thermal generation facilities retire.

While other major renewable electricity technologies are eligible for UK government support, pumped storage remains excluded. The lack of action by the UK government on this matter poses a significant obstacle to the deployment of pumped hydro storage and risks undermining the economic benefits associated with such projects, said Yousaf.

A 2022 UK government consultation acknowledged pumped storage as the most well-established large-scale, long-duration electricity storage technology in the country. The consultation committed to formulating appropriate policies that support investment and ensure the deployment of sufficient large-scale, long-duration energy storage to balance the overall electricity system by 2024. Yousaf said he was concerned that the slow progress in this area is hindering investor confidence and impeding the emergence of projects crucial to the collective objectives of both governments.

Among the challenges to rapid deployment, the Scottish government has identified planning and consenting timescales as significant barriers. Efforts are underway, spearheaded by UK Networks Champion Nick Winser and others, to expedite these processes. However, a key hurdle lies in the Scottish government's lack of devolved powers to reform the consenting regime for grid projects and large-scale electricity generation. The framework for these matters is governed by the UK Electricity Act, which cannot be amended by the Scottish Parliament or Scottish Ministers. The Scottish government has proposed potential solutions to the UK government to enable the required changes, urging swift legislative action to accelerate the consenting process.

While recognizing the need for legislative change, the Scottish government is actively working within the existing framework to expedite consenting processes. An ongoing review of the current framework is being conducted, exploring options and engaging with key stakeholders to streamline processes and improve efficiencies.

Yousaf has called on Sunak to provide details on the UK government's plans to expedite progress on these crucial issues