UK energy and climate change minister Chris Huhne heard conflicting local views on renewable energy and the proposed Viking windfarm today when he met representatives of groups in favour of and against the project.
Four members of the Windfarm Supporters Group had what spokesman Fred Gibson described as a “very useful and worthwhile” meeting while a delegation from Sustainable Shetland told Mr Huhne they believed the majority of people in the isles were against the Viking plan.
Mr Gibson said afterwards that he, Bobby Hunter, Joe Rocks and Tony Erwood had emphasised to the Liberal Democrat minister the importance of the interconnector cable linking Shetland to the mainlaind and the need for a level playing field for transmission charges for renewable schemes.
Mr Gibson said: “Mr Huhne was very interested and asked plenty of questions. We challenged the present system that subsidies the generation of electricity from oil, gas or coal near London, for example, but charges a huge cost for renewable energy projects in Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles.
“You can ship oil or pipe gas thousands of miles to a power station in the Home Counties, or even have an inefficient windfarm there and get a subsidised transmission charge for using the National Grid because you are close to consumers.
“But you cannot transport wind or tidal energy – that has to be generated where it is produced. We have the most productive wind, wave and tidal energy potential in the Northern Isles yet we could be penalised with massive transmission costs.”
Mr Gibson said there was limited discussion on the Viking proposals because Mr Huhne has no responsibility for deciding whether or not to grant planning consent – that decision will be made by the Scottish energy minister.
By contrast Sustainable Shetland insisted the Viking windfarm should be stopped in its tracks because it ignored the “majority wishes of an entire community” in the words of chairman Billy Fox. They said it was essential for the council to hold a fresh round of public meetings on Viking’s new proposals, or addendum, published last week. Council planners are still deliberating on whether to do this.
Vice-chairman Kevin Learmonth said: “In addressing climate change, damaging valuable habitat such as peat and blanket bog is a dangerous game to play.
“Playing the wind farm casino game, gambling that mitigation measures will actually work, betting on the continuation of wind power subsidies, and subsidised transmission charges, that’s a high risk strategy we should not be considering.
“The banks brought economic chaos through high risk investments, we the public are paying the price for their folly through cuts and increased taxation.”
In discussing the interconnector, due to be built by Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission Ltd (SHETL) if it wins approval, they said the minister told them: “The government will not be paying for it. There is no money.”