The UK and Scottish governments have joined forces to set up a new group to examine concerns about the speed of progress on making renewable energy projects in the Scottish islands a reality.
UK energy minister Ed Davey’s announcement follows his visit to the Northern Isles earlier this week, where he was urged to take action on the high cost of transmitting energy to the national grid.
A steering group looking into the concerns raised will stage its first meeting in early November. It is to assess the commercial viability of renewables projects in Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles and examine the overall value for money such projects can provide for the UK as a whole. It will “inform a new independent study on Scottish island renewable generation”.
On Tuesday Mr Davey met representatives of Viking Energy, which has consent for a 103-turbine windfarm generating anything between 370MW and 457MW of power.
Should an interconnector cable to the Scottish Mainland get the green light, under the current regime a windfarm operator faces paying charges more than 60 times higher than a producer in the south of England to transmit power.
Opponents of Viking have criticised the fact that his trip did not include time for Mr Davey to hear their concerns about the project. Protest group Sustainable Shetland’s legal challenge against planning consent being granted is due to be heard at the Court of Session in January.
Speaking at a low carbon investment conference in Edinburgh yesterday, Mr Davey said: “The Scottish islands are blessed with tremendous tidal, wind and wave renewable resources and we should look to fully utilise this huge potential where we can.
“I have been very impressed with the wind and marine developments I’ve seen this week during my visits to Shetland and Orkney and it is important everything is being done to speed up progress where possible.”
Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing said he was delighted that the UK government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) wanted to help “find a solution to the problem of high transmission charging”.
DECC will be working with the Scottish government, HIE and islands councils to “identify and assess options for addressing or mitigating the impact of the charges faced by renewable energy generators in the Scottish islands”, Mr Ewing said.
“We will continue to work with the current industry-led panel on charging, which may deliver some reductions in the scale of charges faced by both mainland and island generators in Scotland.
“But we must not wait for it to conclude before examining the other options open to UK and Scottish ministers, and our local authority and enterprise agency partners to offset the impact of high charges to our islands.
“By looking at all the options available across governments and our agencies now, we can help prevent adding to delays and uncertainty which have been created.”