Uncertainty continues to surround major windfarm projects in the isles – with the UK government launching a consultation on whether onshore projects in remote islands should be treated differently.
North Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has been pushing for a higher minimum ‘island strike price’ for green energy made in the isles, and said he was disappointed with a consultation, rather than a decision on the issue.
Mr Carmichael, said: “The Conservatives have systematically dismantled every piece of support that Liberal Democrats put in place while in government. So while I am bitterly disappointed by today’s news I am not really surprised.
“I do not really see that there is much to be had for the isles from this consultation but we shall have to look at the detail first.
“The idea of a separate pot of money for marine renewables may be the very thin silver lining in an otherwise very dark cloud. Again we shall have to see the detail of what is proposed.”
Today the department for business, energy and industrial strategy gave more details for the next Contracts for Difference auction, where companies will compete for £290 million of contracts for renewable electricity projects.
The bidding round takes place in April next year, though whether the major Viking Energy project can take part will depend on the consultation outcome.
That process closes in January.
According to the UK government it is “looking to end uncertainty over whether onshore wind projects on remote islands should be treated differently from onshore wind project on mainland Great Britain.
“A consultation is being launched today asking for views which either support or oppose this position which will be reviewed to provide a comprehensive answer.”
The consultation paper states: “In 2013, the previous government issued a consultation on additional support for island renewables. This consulted on a proposal to provide a separate strike price for onshore wind projects located on the Scottish islands of Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles within the Contracts for Difference scheme.
“It was suggested that these island groups were identified as exhibiting a particular set of unique characteristics which could justify a different support level to that set for onshore wind on mainland Great Britain, as well as placing it in the less established technology pot.”
It adds its purpose is: “Seeking views on its position that non-mainland GB onshore wind projects should not be classified as a separate technology nor allowed access to Pot 2 (less established technologies), but should continue to be treated as onshore wind.
“This consultation is to seek evidence on this issue from respondents. Should this result in, for example, new evidence or strong justification being provided, the Government is open to considering the possibility of distinct treatment for non-mainland GB onshore wind projects.”
Viking Energy’s head of development Aaron Priest was also disappointed with the news.
He said:”At a time when the Viking project continues to progress its plans, we are disappointed by today’s announcement from the UK government.
“Over the past year or so, government ministers have signalled continued support for island renewables. The decision to hold a further consultation into how to overcome the already well-documented barriers to establishing renewable generation in the remote Scottish islands is not what we expected.
“We continue to believe that a massive opportunity to deliver value to Shetland remains to be won by securing a sustainable renewable energy industry for the islands.
“We will be meeting with the Secretary of State to discuss the implications of the decision to exclude Scottish island projects from the forthcoming CfD round and to instead hold another round of consultation.”
Last week the Westminster government was urged to commit to large-scale renewable projects.
A joint letter signed by SIC political leader Gary Robinson, other island group leaders, as well as Deputy First Minister John Swinney was sent to UK Secretary of State Greg Clark.
It urged Mr Clark to end uncertainty over which types of renewable energy would be supported.
More in Friday’s Shetland Times.