Prospects of kick-starting a multi-million pound renewable energy industry in the
Western Isles dramatically leapt up a gear after a tailored shift in policy from
the UK Government.
Plans to lift a ban against wind farm subsidies just for the Scottish islands brings
the likelihood of a sub-sea cable much close to reality.
After a decade of delays, the move provides the greatest confidence to developers
that their island wind farms can be built
Billions of pounds of planned investment in Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles
could be triggered by today’s announcement.
Onshore windfarm subsidies continue to be blocked everywhere else across Britain
but the special exception made for the islands is seen by many as the first stage
in unleashing a massive economic boom in the islands.
Without financial support developers threatened to abandon plans for Western Isles
with the knock-on effect of scrapping the proposed subsea cable to export electricity
to the mainland. That in turn would scupper plans to build more community wind schemes.
But in a significant development, UK Energy Minister Richard Harrington has now confirmed
the UK Government intends to allow to island wind projects to compete in the next
round of Contracts for Difference bids to be held in spring 2019 which would counter
the high fees for exporting electricity to mainland markets.
Mr Harrington said he made a special case for “island wind projects in Scotland,
which have the potential to benefit the island communities directly (to) have access
to the same funding opportunities as offshore wind in the next renewables auction
Scottish Secretary David Mundell said: “Wind projects on the remote islands of Scotland
have the potential to generate substantial amounts of electricity for the whole of
the UK and I am delighted they will have the opportunity to compete in the next round
of Contracts for Difference.
“This UK Government investment is vital in realising the potential of less established
renewable technologies, as well as providing Scottish jobs in the projects supported.”
Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil said: “This is an important first stage for island
renewables and is what I have been pressing for.
“This development keeps us on course for the auction in the first quarter of 2019,
which is what is important for the development of islands’ renewables.”
A comhairle spokesman said: “Its great to get confirmation that this important step
forward is happening.
“The council has been campaigning for this for some considerable time and now we
need to maintain the momentum to ensure the other commitments are delivered.”
A recent study from EDF Energy Renewables stressed some 600 jobs amid an £709 million
economic boom for the Outer Hebrides can be achieved by tapping into the islands’
massive renewable energy source.
Another study - commissioned by the Scottish Government – estimated up to £81 million
of community benefit payments for the Western Isles.
With appropriate investment in grid infrastructure and generating assets, renewable
energy deployment on the islands could grow rapidly by the early 2020s, said the
Over two years ago the Conservative government axed the financial support insisting
the country has enough onshore turbines to meet targets, switching focus to new technologies
such as wind generators at sea.
It meant no further wind schemes would be built in the islands as developers said
the financial support was required to compensate for the high transmission costs
- up to seven times higher than from the Highlands - to send island generated electricity
to southern markets.
Neither would the £800 million interconnector be built across the Minch.
Major leap forward for Western Isles sub-sea cable