SHETLAND’S planned Viking Energy wind farm and other renewable projects in Scottish islands were given a boost on Thursday by the UK government.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change has agreed to look at creating a special price for transmitting green power from the islands.
Draft “strike” prices have been announced for renewably generated electricity, which will set a minimum payment for generators who face higher transmission costs.
Energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey confirmed that islands are to receive their own strike price.
The move was welcomed by Davey’s Liberal Democrat colleague and northern isles MP Alistair Carmichael who said the islands were at last to be treated fairly.
“I have long argued in opposition and in government that an arrangement of this sort is necessary and today we have confirmation from the government that the principle is accepted,” he said.
“Ultimately the crucial decision will be what level of subsidy is to be set for the isles.
“It needs to be high enough to overcome the extra costs of transmission charging or else the potential development of renewables will never happen.”
Carmichael said Davey had been the first minister to listen to island communities and developers and to act on what he had been told.
He added: “I shall continue to work in government closely with him to ensure that the detail as well as the principle is right.”
Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing said the news was a major step forward in ensuring the huge renewable energy resources of Scotland’s islands can be realised.
However he said more work was needed to ensure the fairest strike prices were agreed, and insisted the Scottish government should be closely involved in those discussions.
“I’m delighted that the UK government has now accepted our arguments for addressing the challenges island generators face and has announced its intention to work with us to deliver effective and targeted market support for island renewables developers,” he said.
Viking Energy head of development Aaron Priest described the announcement as “excellent news for Viking and for Shetland”.
He said: “We welcome this clear signal that the investment barriers identified by government will be removed.”
Viking chairman Alan Bryce added: “Shetland is one significant step closer to building what we expect will be the best onshore wind farm in the world.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to diversify the local economy and boost income to the Shetland Charitable Trust greatly for decades to come.”
The developers hope that they will be able to start exporting electricity from Shetland in late 2018 once an interconnector has been built.
Meanwhile environment charity WWF Scotland welcomed the move to target support for island renewables.
However director Lang Banks warned that this was outweighed by the damage he government was causing to the climate by supporting fracking shale gas and building nuclear power stations, that were part of Thursday’s energy announcement.
“It's good news to see targeted support through a specific strike price to help encourage island-based clean energy.
"However, taken together, the negative impacts of the UK government's obsession with supporting nuclear and fossil fuels appear to outweigh the positive moves made on renewables.
"It would be a great shame indeed if Scotland's sensible ambition to create jobs and cut climate emissions through increased use of renewable energy was undermined by these measures."