Carbon issues remain unaddressed

The outline planning application for the converter station at Upper Kergord comes before the planning board on Wednesday 3rd November. The planning department is recommending consent is granted.

Earlier in the year the application was deferred on the recommendation of the planning department and the board unanimously accepted the recommendation. Its reasons were commendable and fully justified; the concern lay with the intrinsic link to the Viking Energy windfarm and the combined effect of the carbon payback. In pursuing its concerns the planning department had pressed the Scottish government as to where it could go for the necessary expertise to verify and give advice on the carbon payback modelling.

None was forthcoming. In fact one reply from David Liddell of the Scottish government was quite illuminating. In an email to planning he stated: “sorry, but not aware of a particular source of expertise on the carbon accounting query. However, given the government (and also government planning) policy is in favour of wind and other renewables, I wouldn’t encourage you to query the carbon benefits of windfarms in principle. Of course, there may be a particular issue if Viking is on carbon-rich soils”.  This email sits in the public domain within the planning application documents.

The situation has not changed, there is still no expertise available, SEPA has been tasked by the government to fulfil this role but in its submission it states:  “SEPA does not currently undertake audits of carbon balance assessments – our role in this area is still subject to ongoing discussions between SEPA and Scottish Government. Hence I stress that we have not carried out a detailed, technical audit of the submitted information. However, we have reviewed the documentation relating to carbon balance aspects associated with this project. We consider that the applicant has reasonably assessed, in the context of the presence of peat, the likely effects associated with the development … Overall, we consider that the applicant has considered the likely effects in a balanced and reasonable manner, and we would advise the Planning Authority to accept that this issue has been satisfactorily addressed in this case”.

So, no detailed study but instead an unsubstantiated nod of approval. When taken in the context of David Liddell’s email one has to wonder what pressures our statutory bodies are under?

Renewable energy projects first and foremost must be green projects making an irrefutable reduction in carbon emissions, otherwise they should not be built. The Viking Energy proposal and its associated interconnector cable is a very long way from that position. Renewable Obligation Certificates and Climate Change Levy are the economic drivers for this; the consumer and the taxpayer pay for them. If our planning board members have any doubts regarding the green credentials of this project then planning consent must be deferred once again. The carbon payback modelling and the intrinsic link between the windfarm and the interconnector cable have still not been addressed.

Billy Fox
Sustainable Shetland.


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