THE Western Isles and Skye are among the first places in Britain being used to test what will be the biggest change in how electricity is distributed in more than 100 years.

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) plans to use local generators on the islands as key parts of the modern electricity grid of the future.

Currently, if there is a fault or planned maintenance work on the network, SSEN sometimes needs to use diesel generation to keep the lights on. The new project will see medium to large-sized wind and hydro stations opting in to being paid to provide power instead.

SSEN says the innovative, greener approach means it can be more cost effective to pay local generators to export during certain times and conditions or for local businesses to reduce their consumption, helping keep costs down for customers.

In the future, the electricity network will need to be much more flexible as the demand for electricity grows across the country as it decarbonises to tackle climate change. SSEN says the initiative in the Western Isles and Skye will be a significant step in developing the flexible network of the future.

SSEN is working with Piclo, the independent marketplace for buying and selling smart grid flexibility services, to encourage businesses in the Western Isles and Skye to take part.

Stewart Reid, head of future networks at SSEN, said: “This first procurement exercise in the Western Isles and Skye is a significant step in delivering proactive flexibility and is one of the biggest to date in Scotland. It will play a vitally important role in supporting the UK to deliver its low-carbon ambitions.

“We are committed to considering flexible options where it is more cost effective than traditional network reinforcement, unlocking new opportunities for local flexibility providers and helping keep costs down for customers.

“We hope a range of local businesses, energy storage, and embedded generation take part in this exciting project.”