The elephant in the room

Regarding your report on third meeting of the Scottish Islands Renewal Energy Delivery Forum, we are grateful that Shetland News reminded its readers that “the future of the [Viking wind farm] development, the third largest in Scotland, still hangs on a decision by the UK Supreme Court over an appeal by campaign group Sustainable Shetland”.

This is something that seems to be always conveniently forgotten by Messrs. Davey and Ewing, MSPs and MPs such as the SNP’s Mike McKenzie and our own two parliamentary representatives, Viking Energy spokespersons, Shetland Islands Council, Shetland Charitable Trust, and even Promote Shetland ( which trumpets that Shetland is “soon to be the UK’s renewable powerhouse…” Perhaps to them the Judicial Review has been and continues to be the ‘elephant in the room’?

There is a slight error in your article, however, I believe. SHETL has not yet commenced work on the Caithness-Moray undersea interconnector, but has come to an agreement with Ofgem on its cost:

Work on this 160 km, 1.2 GW interconnector is, according to SHETL, due to begin in the financial year 2015/2016.

Meanwhile the Scottish Islands Renewal Energy Delivery Forum has announced another “significant step” forward. We heard this the last time its members met. While the target date for the ‘strike price’ for electricity transmitted from the northern and western isles has now been brought forward to July 2015 (subject to EU approval of state aid), there is still no mention of a revised figure for that. The last one announced (£115/MWh, in late 2013) was deemed by Fergus Ewing to be insufficient (see

Fergus Ewing was also then reported as saying that there should be different strike prices for each of the island groups. Viking Energy, meanwhile, was “unfazed” by the delays that Mr Ewing complained about, because the project was only due to start transmitting in 2018.

You also reported yesterday that “northern isles MP and Scottish secretary Alistair Carmichael said reaching an agreement would require a joint effort between governments, the regulator and the private sector.” This is merely repetition of what has been said, by more than one person, on more than one occasion already.

In other words, there has, once again, been a lot of ‘windy-spin’ in the air. And given all the uncertainties surrounding this project, we continue to believe that any step forward in this direction is one into darkness, with a blind disregard for Shetland’s real sustainable development.

We would remind people that many more turbines than those of the Viking wind farm would be required for the 600MW Shetland–UK mainland interconnector to be viable – and that the vision of Shetland’s “renewable energy powerhouse”, promoted by our national and local governments, involves a far greater number of onshore turbines in Shetland, and either a larger capacity interconnector, or more than one – for goodness’ sake, at what human, environmental and economic expense?

James Mackenzie
Vice-chair Sustainable Shetland
The Lea