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Approval of £550 million Red John hydro scheme raises hopes for Highland's green recovery


By Scott Maclennan

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ILI's pumped storage hydro exhibition at Dores Village Hall in February 2020.
ILI's pumped storage hydro exhibition at Dores Village Hall in February 2020.

The creation of a pumped storage hydro scheme on the shores of Loch Ness has been given the green light to move forward.

The Red John scheme is one of the single biggest investments in the Highlands in recent years, valued at more than £550 million.

The project will provide a major boost for the local economy with developer ILI Group already on record promising to “go local” as much as possible.

Approval of the project “could see hundreds of millions of pounds invested in the local economy and bring up to 700 direct and indirect jobs.”

The decision by Scottish Ministers approving the project comes after a Public Local Inquiry last year after Highland Council strongly objected to the plans.

The council’s refusal to back the scheme was based on the visual impact on the iconic Loch Ness and Great Glen during the construction phase.

The Scottish Reporter agreed that would be the case but found that the visual impacts would “be very limited and localised” and “expected to reduce over time as the woodland planting schemes mature.”

The scheme has strong backing both in national energy and planning policy as ILI claims the 450MW scheme over its lifetime will save 45 million tonnes of CO2.

CEO of ILI Group Mark Wilson 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”.

Mr 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.

“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”.

Mr 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.”


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