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Hebrides News


The UK Government is accused of “stalling” on a vital decision whether to provide subsidies to Scottish island wind farms.


Some £2.5 billion of pounds of planned investment in Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles are at risk unless the UK Government allows an island exception to its its policy on axing public financial assistance to onshore turbines.


A recent study from EDF Energy Renewables highlighted building wind farms and the Minch subsea cable would mean a £400 million economic boom for the Western Isles to 2050.  The figure would be double that for the UK economy


Some 600 people would be employed at the peak of construction work for turbines and the grid connection.


The controversy dominated the Scottish Islands Renewables Delivery Forum in Stornoway.


UK energy secretary, Greg Clark, insisted he has to balance the “robust case” made in favour of the islands against “minimising” the cost to electricity bill payers.


He pointed out renewable subsidies are paid for by all energy users so he has a responsibility to ensure to seek value for money and minimise these levies.


The talks will feed back to a consultation examining the particular circumstances of the Scottish islands.


Calls for an exception will be considered “absolutely fairly objectively but it has to be in the context of my big responsibility which is to keep down energy bills which consumers and businesses pay.”


“We had a substantial response to the consultation with lots of different contributions made. I want to go through them all. I want personally to reflect on them and look at what they say and what’s possible.


“So we haven’t got a date on the response but I know people want us to proceed with pace and I will live up to that.”


But Western Isles MP, Angus MacNeil said Mr Clark should stop stalling and “make the right decision.”


Mr MacNeil said: “The energy industry cannot bring forward any form of generation without subsidy and the biggest support at the moment is going to nuclear so this boils down to political choices.


“Islands renewables are better value for money to the consumer than some other forms in regards the cost to the consumer.


“An investment today in renewables in the islands, would mean savings tomorrow.


“There is no (other) government in Europe that would look a gift horse in the mouth, the Saudi Arabia of wind energy that is the west coast of Scotland.


Scottish energy minister, Paul Wheelhouse, told his UK counterpart that with 70% of land in the Western Isles under community ownership, wind farm profits would have more greater impact than elsewhere as the money would be directly reinvested into local economic schemes.


He told forum the three island groups would have their local economies transformed by renewable energy industry.


After the meeting, he said subsidising island based turbines would counter the high fees for export electricity to mainland markets and back the case to build sub sea cables to connection to the mainland grid.


Subsidies would be a “win-win for everybody” allowing significant projects with “very strong community support” to proceed, he added.


On the other hand, refusing an exception risks £2.5 billion of investment, he added.


Comhairle leader, Angus Campbell, said the subsidy question is the “crux of the matter” over the future of the islands’ renewable energy industry which promises a “fantastic opportunity to create jobs“ while the associated community benefit payments would be reinvested into other economic and employment opportunities.


“Stop stalling” on island windfarms, energy minister told

11 April 2017

UK energy secretary, Greg Clark (left) and energy minister, Paul Wheelhouse at the forum