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Letters / Viking uncertainties

It has come as no surprise that the Viking wind farm and other similar mooted projects in Shetland will not be affected by the change in subsidies announced recently by the UK Government.

As spokespersons for all three projects have said, they will not be dependent on the Renewable Obligations regime, but on the new Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme which replaces it.

What remains a matter of uncertainty, however, is how, or if indeed at all, this will allow for an interconnector for Shetland, in spite of all the statements issued by stakeholders and governments that it “will” come.

The huge cost and technological challenges of such a cable remain major hurdles to overcome.

Now 2020/21 are the dates being projected. (Once, I remember, it was said that the Viking wind farm would be under construction by 2012. Personally, I sometimes feel as if I’m in a nightmare from which I can never awake.)

Meanwhile councillor Jonathan Wills has recently reiterated his belief that the Judicial Review of the consent for the Viking wind farm led to delays in the project (Public Platform, BBC Radio Shetland, 11 June).

He has also accused Sustainable Shetland of thereby depriving Shetland of income that can never be recovered and has asserted that this was a deliberate and cynical ploy (End of Story? SN, 09/02/15)

Unfortunately a recent article in Shetland News also stated as follows: “Planning permission was granted in April 2012 by the Scottish government, but construction has been held up by an ultimately unsuccessful legal challenge from the grassroots campaign group Sustainable Shetland.” (Subsidy fear for new wind farms; SN, 29/05/15)

Sustainable Shetland utterly refutes this!

On more than one occasion during the Judicial Review process, spokespersons for Viking Energy stated that it was “business as usual” and that negotiations with the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change and the Scottish Government were ongoing regarding interconnector costs and transmission charges.

Both governments issued reports and statements relating to these during the same period, without regard to the legal situation.

We would also remind folk that the Western Isles interconnector is still as much in abeyance as the Shetland one, and that no judicial review can be attributed to its delay.

The real reasons for these delays and uncertainties are due to national politics and economics over which we have no control.

As Fergus Ewing has warned: there is still no information from DECC about the future of the CfD scheme, under which the island wind farms are being planned.

Who knows how the Conservative Government will tamper with CfD?

It’s all very well for the chair of Shetland Charitable Trust to say that Viking Energy was never even mentioned during the secret talks about the latest cuts to beneficiaries.

Wind farm capital costs are rising inexorably, and SCT would probably have to invest at least £60 million out of its current funds (and borrow the rest).

If that isn’t going to impinge on other spending then we must be living in cloud-cuckoo-land.

Then Dr Wills and Mr Ratter assert publicly that it’s a certainty that the Viking wind farm, along with SCT’s share, will go ahead.

This, in spite of a final investment decision yet to be made, after the appointed consultants Noble Grossart have, at some expense no doubt, advised on the best course of action for SCT to take.

We do not share the view that the wind farm will definitely go ahead, and we hope that Shetland may yet be spared from this ghastly project.

James Mackenzie
Sustainable Shetland