Neil Gray MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Energy in the Scottish Government, has urged the UK Government to provide developers with the necessary assurance to support the establishment of a fresh wave of pumped storage hydroelectric plants. This initiative holds the potential to foster the creation of nearly 15,000 job opportunities and facilitate the expansion of renewable electricity generation.

Gray voiced his endorsement for this endeavour during a visit to the Cruachan Power Station in Argyll, operated by renewable energy firm Drax. The company is actively advancing plans for a £500 million subterranean pumped storage hydro facility at the Cruachan site. This ambitious expansion of the UK's pumped storage hydro capabilities is deemed crucial for effectively assimilating the growing output from wind and solar power sources into the energy grid. This strategic enhancement not only fortifies energy security but also aligns with the nation's commitment to combat climate change.

Despite the imperative nature of these facilities, the UK has not commissioned new pumped storage plants since 1984. This is largely attributed to the inadequacy of existing support frameworks, designed for different technologies and not tailored to the distinctive requirements of these expansive infrastructure ventures. A comprehensive report authored by KPMG underscored the feasibility of implementing a cap and floor mechanism, akin to the incentive systems employed for cross-border interconnectors. This approach could potentially surmount the existing impediments obstructing investment in extended-duration energy storage technologies.

“To achieve a safe and secure net zero power grid, we need to have a new generation of pumped storage hydro plants to balance our grid,” commented Ian Kinnaird, Drax's Scottish Assets Director. "As the UK increasingly relies on intermittent renewables to keep our lights on, there is a growing need for flexible power sources to plug the gap when the wind doesn’t blow, or the sun doesn’t shine. With its reversible turbines, Cruachan can also store excess power from Scotland’s wind turbines when they are generating more renewable electricity than we need, helping to stop valuable green power from going to waste.

With appropriate backing from the UK Government, Drax is poised to inject a substantial £500 million investment into doubling Cruachan's energy generation capacity, consequently fostering the creation of nearly 1,000 jobs throughout the supply chain during the construction phase.

“Scotland is a global leader in the production of renewable energy, which will play an increasingly important role in the transition to a net zero electricity system by 2045,” commented Neil Gray MSP. “However, pumped hydro storage, an important low carbon technology, is currently ineligible for UK Government support. UK Government inaction on this issue represents a significant obstacle to progress and risks failing to secure economic benefits, such as creating thousands of good quality, green jobs.”

A recent report commissioned by trade body Scottish Renewables unveiled that the establishment of a new wave of pumped storage hydro plants across Scotland could yield nearly 15,000 jobs across the UK. Drax's proposed expansion of the Cruachan facility alone could contribute almost half a billion pounds to the UK economy.