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Council / SIC believes energy construction projects will ease economic pressures

Work on building the access track for the Kergord converter station started in July this year. Photo: Shetland News

SHETLAND Islands Council (SIC) believes the prospect of large construction work associated with energy over the next five years will “undoubtedly help alleviate” some of the economic pressures faced locally from the downturn in oil and gas and the coronavirus pandemic.

Responding to energy regulator Ofgem’s recent consultation on the 600MW transmission link which would connect Shetland to the national grid, the council said the cable is “considered to be of great economic importance” to the isles.

The cable, developed by Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission, is set to be constructed after Ofgem gave the plans the go-ahead following its consultation.

The link effectively paves the way for the controversial 103-turbine Viking Energy wind farm to go ahead – a move which has angered a number of people in the community.

However, the SIC said the subsea cable would assist the transition to a “green energy economy”.

It pointed to the potential for the link to meet the energy demands of offshore oil and gas infrastructure, as well as Sullom Voe Terminal and Shetland Gas Plant.

“The proposed of large capital works taking place in Shetland over the next five years will undoubtedly help alleviate some of the economic pressures Shetland is facing due to the current downturn in the oil and gas sector and the added economic issues created by the coronavirus pandemic, from which Shetland’s traditional industries, tourism and hospitality sectors have been badly affected,” the council added.

The SIC’s position is somewhat at odds with the high number of representations submitted to Ofgem in opposition to the link, and to Viking Energy.

Over 100 members of the public wrote in to express their views, with the majority criticising the plans.

Campaign group Sustainable Shetland wrote into the consultation to suggest that proposals for a gas-fired station in Lerwick – which were ultimately discounted by Ofgem – should have been considered.

It added that the debate about the pros and cons of an interconnector and the Viking wind farm “have gone on now for about 15 years so clearly it cannot be a ‘must have’.”

“Sadly, the debate has caused divisions within communities and, whatever the outcome, these will take time to heal,” the group said.

“Viking Energy has moved on from being a community wind farm project to being just another story of a ruthless developer trying to take advantage of an opportunity.”