Aecom’s £550M Loch Ness hydro scheme given go-ahead - International Burch University
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Aecom’s £550M Loch Ness hydro scheme given go-ahead

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The Scottish government has given the green light to a £550M project to provide pumped hydro storage in Loch Ness.

The 450MW project is being developed by ILI Group with Aecom contracted as the project engineer. Dubbed “Red John” the project near Dores will see electricity generated via pumped hydro storage.

Pumped storage turns electrical energy into stored (or potential) energy and back again to electrical energy. The system uses electricity to pump water from a lower reservoir to a higher reservoir at times when there is more energy being produced on the grid network than is needed.

This energy is stored until it is required, when the water is allowed to flow back through a hydro-turbine, generating electricity to meet sudden or predicted spikes in consumer demand. It currently provides 94% of installed storage capacity. Pumped storage enjoys several distinct advantages over other forms of energy storage due to its long asset life, large storage capacity, long-duration storage, low-lifetime cost, and reduced dependence on imported raw materials.

David Lee, Aassociate director, at Aecom said: “We’re really excited and proud to be involved in such an important and ground-breaking scheme, providing EIA, consenting, environmental surveys and engineering support from the early stages of feasibility through to a positive decision by the Scottish Minister.

“The Red John project will not only support further deployment of renewable energy projects across Scotland and contribute to the country’s net zero targets, but also bring wider investment, sustainable jobs and an embedded long term legacy for generations to come.”

Mark Wilson, chief executive of ILI Group 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”.

Michael Matheson, cabinet secretary for net zero, energy and transport 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.”


Department of Civil Engineering