SSEN Transmission: Embedding Biodiversity into Project Design
Scottish & Southern Electricity Networks Transmission (SSEN Transmission) has voluntarily committed to delivering biodiversity net gains for its current and future projects and operations.
What we know
The biodiversity and climate crises are intrinsically linked so organisations need to urgently account for both in design and planning.
Enhancing biodiversity can support improved provision of ecosystem services, creating multiple benefits across a range of factors. SSEN Transmission is supporting the decarbonisation of the energy sector by connecting renewables to Great Britain’s electricity network.
Recognising the importance of biodiversity in its recent projects and operations, SSEN Transmission has driven change internally and voluntarily developed and adopted a bespoke biodiversity metric adapted for the Scottish context to transparently assess their impacts on nature.
What we’re doing
SSEN has committed to no net loss of biodiversity for all projects gaining consent from April 2020, and net gain on all projects gaining consent from 2025.
Biodiversity-positive thinking is being embedded at all stages of project life cycles, through assessment, monitoring and the inclusion of biodiversity net gain targets as planning objectives [source].
New approaches and tools are being used to measure and quantify biodiversity to act in accordance with regulatory requirements, as well as develop understanding of impacts that developments and landscape changes have on biodiversity.
Interventions to avoid biodiversity losses include a variety of strategies such as replanting previously felled habitats with mixed woodland, replacing habitats lost due to works with higher value habitats, removal of invasive non-native species, improving the condition of marshy grasslands, and restructuring existing woodlands to enhance biodiversity.
SSEN Transmission is not just focused on achieving the maximum biodiversity value according to its metric, it’s making wider species considerations too. For example, special osprey nesting platforms have been integrated into scheme designs.
Similarly, vegetation mixes are chosen to maximise benefits for locally occurring species and species protection plans have been implemented for a wide range of species including beavers.
What it’s worth
At the Caithness Moray HVDC Project, the construction of new substations were accompanied by the creation of diverse habitats to support local Biodiversity Action Plan species.
The project resulted in a 34% gain in biodiversity units, while also identifying improvement opportunities in future projects, such as incorporating biodiversity net gain assessments earlier in the planning process.
Another substation construction project in Thurso created pollinator habitat to support the Great Yellow Bumblebee and other key pollinators, through the planting of native low-maintenance plant species. Planning was done in collaboration with local stakeholders, such as the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust, and large environmental gains were seen for a relatively low cost. The ongoing adaptive management and monitoring has ensured long-term benefits [source].
“By embedding biodiversity into the design of new projects, SSEN Transmission helps support both UN as well as Scottish Government biodiversity strategies and is able to demonstrate to external stakeholders sustainable enhancements from development projects. It has also created opportunities to work with local environmental organisations and communities to support biodiversity initiatives in the wider landscape leaving a positive long-lasting legacy. The approach to biodiversity helps support SSEN Transmission’s wider sustainability ambitions of promoting the natural environment, supporting local communities, and tackling climate change.”Francis Williams Environmental Net Gain Manager, Scottish & Southern Electricity Networks