SCOTLAND’S main political parties are heaping pressure on the UK Government over its decision to exclude Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles from the next round of funding for renewable energy projects – leaving the prospects for isles windfarms shrouded in uncertainty.
Following stern criticism from Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael, SNP Highlands and Islands list MSP Maree Todd, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and now Labour Highlands and Islands list MSP Rhoda Grant have all condemned the Tories’ ambivalence towards islands renewables.
Todd described the government’s announcement that onshore windfarm projects in Shetland and the Western Isles would not be eligible to apply for the next round of Contracts for Difference (CfD) funding as a “betrayal of our island communities”.
“The decision will delay £1.3 billion worth of investments offered by island renewables projects, which will hurt the economy for our island communities,” she said.
“Our islands are already discriminated against due to excessive transmission fees and this decision only worsens the islands’ disadvantage.”
Carmichael said last week’s announcement of a consultation into whether onshore islands projects should receive public subsidy cast a “dark cloud” over the future of the Viking Energy and Beaw Field windfarms.
Viking Energy also expressed its disappointment, while anti-VE campaign group Sustainable Shetland described the latest news as “most interesting”.
SIC leader Gary Robinson and the other islands councils have also accused the Tories of jeopardising £1 billion-worth of investment in renewables.
Todd said the Conservatives’ decision went back on previous commitments to support islands renewables and “goes against the express wishes and advice” of the Scottish Government, Shetland Islands Council and its Orkney and Western Isles counterparts.
When she raised the issue at Holyrood late last week, Sturgeon responded that the announcement as “deeply concerning” and agreed with Todd that it amounted to a “betrayal of our island communities by not treating onshore wind developments in those communities as an unusual form of energy” permitted to bid into the CfD auction.
Todd spoke of the importance of other political parties showing a “united front”, and on Monday Grant said Labour, too, was concerned by the government’s decision.
“They must look again at this decision but in the meantime I’ve asked them to let me have their plans on how the Northern and Western Isles interconnectors will be funded in order to maximise renewable generation in our islands communities,” Grant said.
She said the islands’ renewables potential had “always been widely accepted to be huge, both for onshore wind and wave and tidal energy”.
“While we can capture this energy, we have no way of transporting it to the mainland without interconnectors to the national grid,” Grant continued. “The interconnectors to the Northern and Western Isles have been in the planning for many years and are repeatedly stalling and, as a result, increasing in price.”
She said it had been hoped the CfD pricing regime “would have offered an incentive to developers to pay for these connections, but this opportunity has been missed. Therefore it falls to government to fund these connections in a different manner and I have asked [UK business and energy minister Greg] Clark how his government intends to deliver these connections and how these will be funded.”