UK energy minister, Greg Clark, is to visit the Western Isles just before he announces
reveals a crucial decision which could make or break the Western Isles’ renewable
At stake is an estimated £144 million economic boost over the next 25 years, say
wind farm supporters.
Some 10,000 jobs could be created by 2030 by tapping into the massive renewable energy
sources in Scotland's islands according to a joint UK and Scottish Government study.
The local renewable sector is hugely dismayed at the UK Government’s refusal of giving
subsidies to onshore turbine projects in the Western Isles.
That came as a shock given the strongly upbeat signals an exception would be made
for the Western and Northern Isles.
Financial support is sought to compensate for the high cost - up to seven times higher
than from the Highlands -
of exporting island generated electricity to the south .
Public financial assistance to all land-based windfarms has stopped, with the government
“making it clear” the country has enough onshore turbines to meet targets.
However, Greg Clark excluded the islands from this year’s allocation scheme which
takes place in April, saying the focus should now be on technologies like turbines
He did offer a final glimmer of hope for the Western Isles wind renewable industry
by opening another consultation on whether onshore turbine projects on remote islands
should be treated differently.
The catch is that he demands “new evidence or strong justification” and seems to
be seeking different arguments to that submitted to a similar consultation in 2013.
If no distinct case for the islands succeeds then proposed windfarms - including
plans for community schemes - plus the planned Minch interconnector are extremely
unlikely to proceed.
MP Angus MacNeil said Greg Clark plans to visit the islands in late February or early
March to “discuss the way forward and possibilities.”
The MP added: “Obviously with the consultation ongoing the ministers have to remain
tight-lipped at the moment and it is difficult to say what the outcome will be, but
with the Secretary of State planning to visit the islands, it will at least give
interested parties an opportunity to state their case.”
Meanwhile, Mr MacNeil and MSP, Alasdair Allan, discussed the situation with representatives
from island community energy groups. With the local grid unable to take on any more
output from island turbines proposals for future community wind developments hang
on the threatened subsea cable going ahead.
Government minister who could wipe out Western Isles’ £144 million renewable industry
to visit isles