Councillor Donald Crichton, Chair of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Sustainable Development Committee has urged UK Energy Secretary Greg Clark to implement the Conservative manifesto commitment and support the development of island renewable projects.
In a letter to the Energy Secretary, Mr Crichton said:
"In the first instance can I take this opportunity to congratulate you on being reappointed as Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Given the important work undertaken by yourself and Department in regard to renewable energy and the Scottish Islands, it is good that there will be continuity to allow the recent work to be built on. I was particularly pleased to see the positive mention of the Scottish Islands in the Conservative Party Manifesto. This hopefully moves us beyond the 2015 Manifesto and the political challenge that it presented.
I was pleased that you were able to attend and co-chair the Scottish Islands Delivery Forum meeting in Stornoway in April. I trust you enjoyed your visit to the Hebrides and gained a good insight into the challenges and opportunities that we face.
You will be aware, from previous correspondence that Comhairle nan Eilean Siar believes renewable energy, and wind energy in particular, has the potential to deliver a transformational economic step-change for the Hebrides. This is a position that I wholeheartedly share.
Mr Crichton continued: "We sit on the cusp of the largest ever private sector investment to be undertaken in our islands. It is an investment that will deliver significant local, regional and national supply chain benefits. Our communities have the opportunity to participate in these projects with up to 30% joint-ownership available at financial close. This is an opportunity that our communities are keen to seize. Individual communities are also developing their own projects, with up to 90MW of wholly-owned community generation presently being brought forward.
I am aware that the following points have been made before, but I think they are worth reiterating. Developers in the Outer Hebrides presently have close to 500MW of clean, green renewable energy generation with full planning permission and grid connection offers awaiting deployment. These developers stand ready to make a capital investment of circa £1bn in the Outer Hebrides, which would equate to the largest private sector investment ever to be undertaken in our islands. The economic potential of that investment was fully outlined in the former Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) commissioned, “Scottish Islands Renewables Project”. It identified the significant opportunities associated with establishing a renewables industry in the Hebrides. It outlined that:
“…almost 400 FTEs could be created on the Western Isles (Outer Hebrides) by 2020, over 2,000 FTEs by 2025 and over 3,500 FTEs by 2030”.
The level of job creation potential suggested by the DECC Report provides the Outer Hebrides with an unparalleled opportunity for community and economic regeneration. That is why the sector has been so enthusiastically embraced by the Local Authority, local development agencies and the local community. For the future well-being of the islands, it is essential that we deliver on that potential. The success or failure of that potential lies with the Government and its approach to Remote Island Wind and the next Contracts for Difference Auction Round(s) over the next critical period.
Our developers, which include EDF and Amec Foster Wheeler, are confident that they can deliver on this potential and that they can deliver significant quantities of clean, green energy to the UK consumer at a significantly lower cost than any other technology. In my view that should be tested through competition in any future Auction Round.
He concluded: "From a policy perspective the Comhairle has supported the development of a renewable energy industry in the Outer Hebrides since 2001. It has been hugely disappointing and frustrating that we have been unable to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the development of that sector. I do, however, believe that the work undertaken by yourself (and officials in BEIS) over the past two years, allied to the clear commitment in the Conservative Party Manifesto, places us in a position where significant progress can be made over the next 12 months. I look forward to that progress being made.
I would appreciate an opportunity to discuss these issues with you. I think it would useful for me to meet with you to both reiterate the council’s on-poing commitment to the renewable energy sector and to discuss where we can make a contribution to the Government’s developing Industrial Strategy."