Energy giant SSE has invested £100m in a hydroelectric scheme that could double the UK’s ability to store energy for long periods of time.
The 92m-high dam proposed by the Perth-based firm at Coire Glas in the Scottish Highlands could provide power for three million homes for 24 hours.
The 1.5GW facility, located on the shores of Loch Lochy between Fort William and Inverness, would be the UK’s biggest hydroelectric project for 40 years.
The Scottish Government approved the project in 2020 but SSE want assurances from the UK Government before signing off on the scheme, which is expected to cost £1.5bn.
A spokesperson for the UK Department for Energy Security and Net Zero said it was “committed to supporting the low carbon hydro sector, including hydro storage”.
But the power company wants commitments from the UK Government, including assurances on how the energy market could reward low-carbon power production.
The project would take energy from the grid when it’s cheap and use it to pump water 500m up a hill from Loch Lochy to a vast upper reservoir equivalent to nearly 11,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
It would be stored there before being released to power the grid when wind prices are and customer demand is high.
SSE said it would help with the transition from oil and gas and would improve UK energy security, creating 500 jobs in the process.
The energy company said it hopes to make the final investment in the dam next year with the project to be completed in 2031.
It says the £100m cash boost will be used to investigate the site, including boring a tunnel four metres wide for around 1km into the hillside to assess the geological condition of the area.
Scottish energy secretary Michael Matheson said the announcement from SSE is a “significant and important milestone on the journey towards delivering the Coire Glas project”.
He said: “If built, Coire Glas will more than double Britain’s long duration electricity storage capacity – allowing the grid to more flexibly deploy renewable electricity.”
SSE finance director Gregor Alexander said: “If delivered around the turn of the decade, Coire Glas could play a crucial role in getting the UK to net zero.
“Our investment commitment today also signals a significant down payment by SSE to keep this critical project moving forwards.
“And our ability to reach a positive final investment decision will clearly depend on the prevailing policy environment for long duration electricity storage and long-term infrastructure projects more broadly.
“Whilst Coire Glas doesn’t need subsidy, it does require more certainty around its revenues and it is critically important the UK Government urgently confirms its intention on exactly how they will help facilitate the deployment of such projects.”