BRITISH energy regulators are putting billions invested in offshore wind projects at risk with the highest transmission charges in Europe, new research has warned.

Electricity generators in the UK, including those from green sources like wind and tidal energy, pay transmission charges for the cost of building and maintaining the network. These charges are set by regulator Ofgem.

A new report titled Charging the Wrong Way by Renewable Infrastructure Development Group (RIDG) has highlighted the huge gap in these charges compared to generators in European countries like Germany, France, and the Netherlands that pay very low rates, or none at all.

The charges are much higher in Scotland and the north of England compared to the rest of Britain, with plans for them to rise even further.

This means that despite Boris Johnson's plan for a Green Industrial Revolution across the UK, the Ofgem charges mean the system favours investment in the south of England and the EU.

Despite Scotland having some of the highest wind speeds and resources in the whole of Europe, the charges mean the UK could become a net-importer of renewable energy in the decades ahead.

READ MORE: Scotland sees largest rise in renewables capacity across UK as wind leads the way

The report states that cross-border completion in the EU means that regulators are likely to "avoid disadvantaging their own generation fleet by aligning network charging with neighbouring countries".

This means that low or non-existent charges for the service in the EU will make it more cost-effective to import power from places that do not face the same regulation.

It goes onto say that Scottish generators are at a "significant disadvantage" compared to sites on the continent due to them paying an average of 16 times more for using the transmission system.

This distortion is likely to play a significant role in where future energy projects are built, the report says.

The analysis shows that on average, EU generators pay £0.46 per megawatt-hour (MWh) in transmission system charges, while in Scotland the average this year is £6.42/MWh. Move to the windy north of Scotland and the price spikes to £7.36/MWh, with prices forecast to rise further still.

Marc Smeed, associate director at RIDG and wrote the new report, said: "Of 36 countries in the European transmission network, 20 do not charge generators at all and only five levy charges based on location.

”Compare this to Scottish offshore wind projects, which our analysis forecasts will pay £10/MWh – around a quarter of a project’s revenue – to access the grid in the years ahead. Addressing this imbalance would help unlock the best wind energy resources in Europe, bringing billions of pounds of investment and jobs to some of the most remote and disadvantaged parts of the UK.”

READ MORE: Thousands of green jobs to be created in £40 million bid for energy hub

The Scottish Government's Net Zero and Energy Secretary, Michael Matheson, called on the UK Government to scrap the charges.

He said: "The UK governments transmission charges in Scotland are the highest in Europe by some margin. This is holding back investment in renewable energy and the potential for new jobs. If the UKG is serious about tackling our #ClimateEmergency this barrier must be removed."

RenewableUK's director of electricity systems Barnaby Wharton said that the UK's current approach is not sustainable if the country is to become a major player in the global market.

Wharton said: ”The UK has the best wind resource in Europe, and we should be making the most of the clean electricity we’re producing for UK consumers at the lowest cost and ensuring we can export the massive amount of power we’re generating when there’s a surplus.

”If Ofgem is serious about supporting UK’s net-zero emissions target, it should change its approach to ensure we can take advantage of the bountiful natural resources we have. Ofgem needs to have a specific net-zero remit to ensure we maximise our zero-carbon generation as a matter of urgency – and this should be addressed by Ministers alongside the Government’s forthcoming Strategy and Policy Statement for Ofgem.”

Responding to the report, Scottish Renewables director of policy Morag Watson said:  "The regulations which govern how our electricity network is paid for are out of date and do not reflect the need to meet net-zero in the most efficient way possible.

"A worsening of this situation currently looks likely to occur though this decade. That would make the development of the renewable energy projects which Scotland needs to supply its energy and drive economic growth less likely, at a time when those projects are more urgently needed than ever."

You can read the full Charging the Wrong Way report HERE