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Energy cable deadline row      6/5/13          

The clock is speedily ticking towards the make-or-break deadline for a vital sub-sea cable to export renewable energy from Western Isles wind and wave farms warns Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

The economic consequences including the loss of job creation of the delays were rammed home to representatives of the Scottish Government and the National Grid at a meeting organised by the Outer Hebrides Renewable Energy Group.

Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) which is the monopoly operator of the national grid in North Scotland has yet to lodge a revised needs case, which looks at the economics and business demand for the link.

UK energy regulator Ofgem requires the business case document before awarding final approval.

SSE says it is concerned that developers will not underwrite the cable’s £700 million cost until the future subsidy payments were known.

It also highlighted wind farm firms are deterred by excessive transmission charges for renewable projects in the islands.

Angus Campbell, leader of Western Isles Council said there was consensus around the table yet “it was disappointing that SSE stood up and said there are not prepared to put the needs case in.”

The delay means an arrangement between SSE and Swiss-owned submarine cable contractor ABB risks falling, necessitating re-run of the time-consuming tender process.

It could take three years to get back to the present stage as time limits on provisional contracts to build the cable ends in July, says Mr Campbell.

Rerunning the process to get new tenders means a number of planned large wind farms and  coastal wave schemes remain in limbo until nearly 2017.

Mr Campbell said: “The (SSE) man did say the needs case was waiting on his desk waiting to go to Ofgem.

“Ofgem would normally require two months to consider that needs case.”

The hold-up is because SSE say they do not have confidence that developers will invest at the next stage.

Mr Campbell added: “This kind of action has never before been taken by a grid provider.”