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Sub-sea energy cable hangs in the balance         26/6/13

The go-ahead of the delayed Minch energy interconnector depends on higher incentive payment levels for island windfarms which are set to be revealed soon.

Energy developers hope for a breakthrough special island rate fwhich could ease the extra high costs faced by windfarms exporting electricity from the Western Isles.

Large wind schemes at North Tolsta, Stornoway and at South Lochs on Lewis as well as a wave farm off the island’s western coast will not proceed unless the cable is in place to send the energy to southern markets.

A major obstacle is the high fees to export electricity down the cable to energy-hungry southern cities.

Transmission charges increase the further from the point of use so it is about 60 times more expensive to export renewable electricity off the islands and down the grid network compared to a generator in the south of England.

An vital announcement over the payments of Renewables Obligations Certificates (ROC) - the financial support scheme to encourage new renewable energy schemes - is due soon. This could determine if energy developers move or stay on the Western Isles.

If the ROC level is too low, developers may withdraw their commitment to the Minch interconnector and abandon their proposed island schemes.

The issue has already pushed back the planned cable to 2017 at least after SSE, which controls the national grid in the north of Scotland, failed to submit a vital business investment case to energy regulator Ofgem in time.  SSE highlighted the “considerable costs for renewables developers on the islands” amid concerns developers would pull out of the cable plans.

SNP MSP Alasdair Allan says the ROC payment figure should be known within days.

Yesterday, he met with David Gardner, Director of Transmission at SSE and representatives of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to discuss progress.

Alasdair Allan commented: “Everyone in the islands wants to see further positive steps on the construction of an interconnector to allow the development of renewable energy in the Western Isles.

“Some time ago, I met with the Comhairle to discuss their concerns about the time this is taking, and, today we followed this up by meeting with SSE at the Scottish Parliament.

“It is certainly positive news that SSE has now made a formal submission to Ofgem on this project.

“Likewise, I am encouraged that both the Scottish Government and UK Government have undertaken to address key issues around transmission charges and support for island renewables.

“Now, we await a firm indication from the Department of Energy & Climate Change as to what the level of Renewables Obligations Certificates (ROC) will be for island based renewables projects.

“Following extensive representations by the Scottish Government, I am now hopeful that we will have an answer to this in a matter of days.

“I hope this will allow the interconnector to move ahead as, clearly, we need to see the next step towards this project becoming a reality.”