First steps towards island energy plan      10/9/13

The Comhairle proposes developing a strategy to guide the future of on-island energy supplies and fuel-efficiency measures.

The council’s development  committee agreed to councillor Gordon Murray’s idea and to take steps towards establishing an energy plan for the Western Isles.

Mr Murray urged the committee to a strategy ready for when the council’s proposed Outer Hebrides Energy Supply Company would come on stream to offer a discounted tariff to island householders and businesses in two or three years .

The comhairle is advancing plans to sell electricity to islanders at a cheaper price than the giant energy providers.

Renewable energy generated locally from giant windfarms may be sold to islanders which hinges on the interconnector cable being built between Lewis and the mainland.

At the council’s development  committee economic chief Calum Iain Maciver said: “The  interconnector is not the be all and end all” but the council’s aspirations for a huge economic revival and increased jobs will never be achieved without it

Mr Maciver pointed out: “Renewable energy is still a key thing in our strategy and will be until the Comhairle changes that.”

Cllr Gordon Murray said: “I welcome the commitment to establish an energy plan for the Outer Hebrides.

“The formation of such a plan will allow exploration of different methods of energy generation, provide a platform for the establishment of an Outer Hebrides Energy Supply Company and look at developing local partnerships to realise energy savings and efficiencies for the communities of the Western Isles.”

He added: “The benefits of these could mean the eradication of fuel poverty for every household in the islands, remove the dependence on imported energy and attract new businesses to the islands by offering reduced energy costs.

“It could also create local jobs in the energy sector and continue the growth of renewable energy research and development in the Lews Castle college.”

A number of legal matters may complicate the energy supply company initiative but if it gets the green light it  would offer cheaper electricity tariffs to island families and businesses.

Building and running its own large scale turbines is not on the cards but the council hopes to buy into the planned large Stornoway windfarm along with the community-owned estate Stornoway Trust.

Up to 20% of the 36 huge generators which have received planning permission to be built on flat moorland on Lewis are available for a local ownership project.