Windfarm developer Viking Energy has hailed news that the UK government is to give renewables developers in the isles “fair treatment” on pricing.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) today announced draft “strike” prices for country-wide renewable technologies. It confirmed that work had started on a special price for islands including Shetland and Orkney.
DECC’s statement outlines a December timetable for delivering a “differential strike price” for islands renewables where there are “clearly distinct characteristics to typical mainland projects”.
Viking Energy head of development Aaron Priest said the news “vindicates the concerted efforts over several years by many to ensure the viability of renewables projects in the Scottish islands and the economic benefits they undoubtedly bring”.
Last month Viking’s chairman Alan Bryce had admitted the 103-turbine windfarm was “not viable” under present charges and subsidy levels, but said he was confident the UK government would introduce measures to change that. Transmission charges are also being examined.
“This is excellent news for Viking and for Shetland,” Mr Priest said. “We look forward to the next step, which will quantify the exact level of these long-term enhancements for the Scottish islands, and Shetland in particular. We welcome this clear signal that the investment barriers identified by government will be removed.”
Viking Energy hopes the 103 turbines, located in central areas of the Mainland including the Lang Kames, can begin exporting power in late 2018.
Mr Bryce said Shetland was “one significant step closer to building what we expect will be the best onshore windfarm in the world”. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to diversify the local economy and boost income to the Shetland Charitable Trust greatly for decades to come.”
Mr Carmichael said he had “long argued in opposition and in government that an arrangement of this sort is necessary”. Yesterday’s announcement served to confirm that government now accepted that principle, he said.
“Ultimately the crucial decision will be what level of subsidy is to be set for the isles,” Mr Carmichael said. “It needs to be high enough to overcome the extra costs of transmission charging or else the potential development of renewables will never happen.”
He paid “great credit” to fellow Liberal Democrat Ed Davey who, as energy and climate change minister, visited Shetland in 2012.
Mr Carmichael said: “[He] has been the first minister to listen to the community and developers here and to act on what he is told. I shall continue to work in government closely with him to ensure that the detail as well as the principle is right.”
Mr Davey faced criticism for not meeting windfarm opponents Sustainable Shetland during last October’s trip.
Its judicial review into the Scottish Government’s decision to approve the project concluded at the Court of Session in Edinburgh last Friday.
Judge Lady Clark of Calton is now considering herverdict, though a final decision is not expected for weeks, or possibly even months. The decision could also be subject to appeals from the government or Viking’s opponents.
Sustainable Shetland’s legal case centres on a belief that energy minister Fergus Ewing failed to meet the government’s responsibilities under the EU birds directive, due to fears over the project’s impact on the whimbrel, a migratory wading bird.