Viking Energy’s head of development has welcomed a UK government announcement that it will support renewable energy generation in remote islands.
Doubt had been hanging over the future of the controversial project since Westminster blocked island generators from bidding in a previous round of Contract for Difference (CfD) auctions at the end of last year.
However, the Conservative Party made an election manifesto pledge, ahead of June’s snap general election, that a Tory government would support land-based windfarms where a community benefit will result from their development.
The Shetland Times reported last month that an announcement was imminent and the government has today confirmed that it will provide additional support to wind projects in the islands. It is also set to grant up to £557 million for future projects.
Wind projects on “the remote islands of Scotland” will be allowed to bid in the next round of CfD in spring 2019.
Ahead of the launch of a new energy strategy, minister Richard Harrington said: “The UK government’s Clean Growth Strategy has set out how the whole of the UK can benefit from the global move to a low carbon economy.
“Scotland already has a strong record in exploiting the potential of clean growth, with more than half of Scottish electricity consumption coming from renewable sources.
“We want to go further creating thousands of good jobs and attracting billions of pounds worth of investment. That’s why we are ensuring that remote island wind projects in Scotland, which have the potential to benefit the island communities directly, have access to the same funding opportunities as offshore wind in the next renewables auction round.”
Reacting to the announcement Viking Energy’s Aaron Priest said: “It remains vital for Shetland’s economic future that we’re allowed the chance to diversify and develop a renewable energy industry.
“We have an endless resource of wind, wave and tide and the Shetland community should get to use it to generate new jobs and income. We very much welcome the government taking positive action to deliver its manifesto commitment to ‘support the development of wind projects in the remote islands of Scotland, where they will directly benefit local communities’.
“We look forward to continued dialogue with both the UK and Scottish governments to deliver the long lasting benefits of economic diversification to Shetland.”
Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael also greeted the “welcome” news with optimism even if it is “two years later than many would have hoped”.
He said: “The Northern Isles are a thriving centre for renewable energy, but we have been hindered in developing this as an industry because of where we are. This announcement allows island-based businesses to compete on an even footing with their mainland counterparts.
“I last raised this issue with the minister back in July when I led a debate in parliament on the future of renewable energy in island communities. He promised a swift decision then, on whether the government would provide this support. I am glad that he has come to the decision he has.
“Today’s announcement is good, but we still need support for new technologies like wave and tidal generation. In that area we need more creativity and flexibility if we are to realise the massive potential that we have.“
Westminster’s Scottish secretary David Mundell said Scottish island had a great generating potential, that would also provide jobs.
“Clean Growth is at the heart of the Industrial Strategy, and the UK government is determined to unlock opportunities across the UK, while cutting carbon emissions as the world moves to towards a low carbon future,” he said.
The last competitive auction to bring more renewable projects into the market ended in September and brought forward commitments for enough electricity generation to power 3.6 million homes. It secured 3.2GW of electricity from offshore wind projects including the Moray East offshore wind farm which will provide 950MW of capacity, capable of powering over 950,000 homes, the government said.
It is claimed that Scottish island windfarms, including the Viking Energy scheme, could contribute around three per cent of the UK’s electricity demand.
The Shetland Times is waiting for a response to the announcement from anti-Viking lobby group Sustainable Shetland.