Without a link to the national grid of the sort necessary for the Viking Energy windfarm to be viable, renewable energy development in Shetland will remain small-scale, according to a team of experts.
An interconnector would give the isles the chance to “create a step-change in its economy, contribute to wider environmental targets and generate significant community benefits”, the consultants behind a new strategy and action plan for the SIC, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Shetland Renewable Energy Forum claim.
The draft report, which is to be presented to a meeting of the harbour board on Wednesday, offers no view on the Viking proposals.
The authors say that their work is based on the assumption that Shetland can be linked to the mainland to attract both private and public investment, but stress that if no link is built “there are elements of the strategy and action plan that remain relevant and of value”.
The plan aims to:
• Significantly reduce the volume of non-renewable fossil fuels required to power Shetland;
• Create employment, income and new skills by stimulating new economic activity through renewables;
• Ensure there are direct benefits besides employment, income and new skills to the community from renewables;
• Enable remote communities to use renewable energy to keep those communities alive;
• Stimulate awareness of the importance of renewables and the need to reduce carbon emissions.
The consultants observe that Shetland has a fragile economy with a limited economic base. The key industries of fishing, aquaculture and oil and gas all operate in global markets and are vulnerable to global swings of success and downturn with little scope for local control.
“The challenges we face are evidenced in the population decline we are experiencing. Renewable energy offers us a rare opportunity to diversify and develop our economy and importantly because it is ‘renewable’ it offers our community a sustainable economic opportunity.”
Officials from Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission Ltd, which would be responsible for building an interconnector for the Viking windfarm, will be in Shetland holding a public meeting and roadshow on Wednesday.