The timetable over introducing a special island windfarm subsidy to pave the way
for building large turbine schemes on Lewis looks likely to stretch towards 2020.
Two further consultations are now to take place before Western Isles windfarm schemes
have a chance of proceeding.
The UK government axed all subsidies for onshore turbines but indicated it would
make an exception for the Scottish islands.
None of the three large wind schemes planned for Lewis nor proposed clusters of community
turbines will be built without financial support to compensate for the high export
costs - up to seven times higher than from the Highlands - to send island generated
electricity to southern markets.
Without the subsidy it seems highly likely developers will abandon plans for island
windfarms with the knock-on effect of scrapping a proposed subsea cable to export
electricity to the mainland.
No turbine would be built in the absence of an interconnector to the mainland.
The government consulted earlier this year over providing a special islands’ subsidy
Now Energy Minister Richard Harrington intends to launch two parallel consultations
around "Remote Island Wind" and how projects can deliver benefits to the community.
State aid clearance from the European Commission would be required to sanction an
island wind subsidy category.
If the green light is received from the EU, the next stage would be to get legislation
through the House of Commons.
However, given the volume of Brexit work this might have timetabling issues, delaying
the final outcome.
Island politicians and renewable energy representatives met with Richard Harrington
and Scottish energy minister Paul Wheelhouse over the issue.
MP Angus MacNeil said: “The issues of particular interest to the minister are: what
the scope of community would be, how community or communities money would be controlled
and on what basis could communities as a whole or community members access funds.
All is under consideration.”
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s development director Calum Iain Maciver said: “The minister
and his officials were positive about prospects for the islands and they were keen
to hear how the islands could benefit from the establishment of a renewables industry.”
Island representatives highlighted the minister the transformative economic potential
of renewables, the strategic goal of ensuring that communities across the Western
Isles benefit from the establishment of the new industry, the various types of benefits
that will accrue as well as the different types of methodologies for disbursing these
benefits, said Mr Maciver.
“There are still a range of challenges to be worked through, but the meeting with
Mr Harrington has reinvigorated prospects for Island renewables.
“There now appears to be a broad consensus between the UK and Scottish Governments,
the three island local authorities and the developer community that progress can
and will be made.
“The comhairle will continue to work hard over the next period to help deliver on
the potential arising from the meeting.”
More consultations over islands’ wind farm subsidy