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Viking decision to be delayed

VIKING Energy opponents Sustainable Shetland have welcomed the delay in a decision on the controversial wind farm until after the Scottish Parliament elections.

The Scottish government confirmed on Monday that no decision on whether to approve the 127 turbine project or to hold a public inquiry would be held before 5 May.

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Parliament breaks up on Tuesday to allow the election campaign to commence, though ministers will continue to hold responsibility for their portfolios until the vote.

Energy minister Jim Mather, who would have had the final say on Viking, has announced he will stand down at the election so that even if the Scottish National Party form a new government, he will not be amongst them.

Sustainable Shetland chairman Billy Fox welcomed his absence, saying that he had already been tainted by meeting with the VE developers four years ago.

“We are very glad that Jim Mather will not be involved because he met with Viking Energy in November 2007,” Mr Fox said.

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Viking Energy coordinator Allan Wishart said he would have liked a decision to have been made sooner, but appeared confident that the wind farm will be approved.

“It would have been nice to get approval before the election but we have to leave it now and see what happens, though I do believe that all the parties are very supportive of renewables so we shall have to just wait and see what happens,” he said.

Meanwhile a senior banker with Lloyds Banking Group will meet trustees of Shetland Charitable Trust on Thursday to discuss the investment into the wind farm.

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Richard Simon-Lewis, the banking group’s senior director overseeing renewable energy projects, will be joined by Hunter Inkster, originally from Shetland, who works for Lloyds Bank Corporate Markets in Aberdeen. 

SCT financial controller Jeff Goddard said the bankers viewed Viking Energy as an attractive investment opportunity.

Mr Goddard said: “We have now met with several banks, including Lloyds Bank Corporate Markets to discuss the financing of the project.  SSE, the other partner in the Viking Energy project has had discussions with the European Investment Bank.

“The clear message we are getting from the banks is that this project can be financed and Lloyds Bank Corporate Markets were keen to meet the trustees and give the view of a potential investor.”

The estimated building costs for Viking Energy are £685 million. Most of the costs would be financed through loans from a mix of commercial banks and specialist infrastructure and renewable funds, he said.

The security for the loans is taken against the project itself and would not therefore put at risk any other trust funds.

The charitable trust might have to raise £62 million to meet its share of the building costs, borrowing £31 million and raising the rest by selling off other investments.

Mr Goddard estimates that the profits returning to the trust might amount to £23 million each year for the lifetime of the wind farm.

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