PLANS for a multi-million-pound project connecting underwater cables from East Lothian to the north of England have been lodged with East Lothian Council.

SP Energy Networks hopes the Eastern Link project will help the UK reach its target of becoming net zero in all greenhouse gases.

Under the plans, a converter station would be built next to the Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) at Oxwellmains, south-east of Dunbar.

The plans are broken into four elements and feature: a new converter station to switch electricity from conventional alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC); onshore underground high-voltage direct current (HVDC) electricity cables required to deliver electricity from the converter station to a landfall south of Thorntonloch Beach; onshore underground high voltage alternating current (HVAC) electricity cables required to deliver electricity from the proposed Branxton substation to the converter station; and a landfall area where the marine cables come ashore and will be joined onto the onshore underground cables.

A ScottishPower spokesperson said: “The Eastern Link project will unlock the rich renewable energy capacity of Scotland and supports the drive to build more cheaper, secure and homegrown low-carbon electricity generation to help reach net zero.

“The project will lay new high voltage cables from Torness in East Lothian to County Durham and will require the construction of two converter stations to link the cables into substations at each end. A planning application has been submitted to East Lothian Council.

“We hope to begin work on this vital link in 2024.”

'Reinforcements required'

More than 100 documents have been submitted to the council outlining the complex project.

Among them, the design and access statement highlights the challenges facing Scotland, England and Wales in becoming net zero in all greenhouse gases.

Scotland’s target is 2045, while for England and Wales it is 2050.

The document notes: “As the country transitions away from traditional forms of fuel to power vehicles and heat homes, there will be a greater need for green electricity. By the end of this decade, every home in the country will be capable of being powered by offshore wind.

“To move this green energy from its source and into people’s homes and businesses, there will be a need to increase the capability of the electricity transmission network.

“Significant offshore wind generation is being developed off the east coast of Scotland.

The existing transmission network does not have enough capacity to cope with the level of connections required and therefore network reinforcements are required.”

Majority in favour

The developers say that the design has been influenced by a number of factors, including the environment and economic considerations.

Earlier this year, SP Energy Networks held a near-month-long public consultation exercise.

Leaflets were distributed in Asda in Dunbar, while there was an exhibition in Innerwick Village Hall and public information boards at all the major harbours.

Eighty-seven feedback forms were returned, with concerns raised including the visual impact, the potential for increased traffic and the impact on marine wildlife.

Despite those concerns, the findings showed the majority were in favour of the converter station, the offshore marine cable route and the onshore cable route.

A timeline for the project outlines hopes that work could start in 2024, with commissioning three years later.

If approved, the converter station would be built next to Viridor’s £177m Energy Recovery Facility (ERF), which became operational in early 2019.

It processes up to 300,000 tonnes of waste per year with the capacity to generate up to 30 megawatts of power.