Comhairle and Stornoway Trust to Explore Renewables Partnership

A copy of the speech from Comhairle Leader, Roddie Mackay, at the opening of the new Lewis Wind Power office which took place in Stornoway today, Wednesday 31 January 2018. 

Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar can I too welcome you to this opening of the new Lewis Wind Power office.

I would like to thank Mark for his words and for his overview as to where we are with the development of both the Uisenis and Stornoway Wind Farm projects.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has been a long-time supporter of renewable energy.  

17 years ago, recognizing our bountiful renewable energy resources and looking to seize an opportunity to transform the economic fortunes of our islands, the council developed a concept that sought to position the islands as an "Energy Innovation Zone.

There was great potential, not only of significant energy generation, but of using that generation to stimulate manufacturing at Arnish, to create new community incomes streams, to use the islands as a test bed for new energy technologies and to impact on the unacceptably high levels of fuel poverty through low-cost energy supply.

As we know, the roll out of renewable energy in the islands has been disappointingly slow and the establishment of a new industry has taken much longer than anyone anticipated.  

Despite that renewable energy still offers our islands real and significant opportunity.  And that is why the Comhairle remains fully committed to the renewable energy sector and to delivering the significant local benefits that the establishment of that industry will stimulate. 

Over the years the Comhairle has worked closely with many renewable energy developers at both commercial and community level.  Lewis Wind Power has been with us since the start of this journey.

The initial Lewis Wind Power project was announced in December 2001 and there was much excitement as the project went through the Comhairle's planning process in 2004.  Then came the disappointment of the project's rejection in 2008 and the renewed enthusiasm around the emergence of the Stornoway Wind Farm concept in 2010.

I should say here that it is a real testament to the tenacity of both Lewis Wind Power and the Stornoway Trust that you have both hung in there to get us to this point.

Mark referred to the challenges still to come and it is true there will be challenges with no guarantee of success. I do believe, however, that we now have a more supportive national policy environment than we have had for a long time.  

Our discussions with senior members of the U.K. Government make it clear that they are committed to seeing an inter-connector to the Outer Hebrides happening.  They are clear that they see this as a fundamental part of the "Islands Deal" we are presently discussing with Government.  

Similarly the present CfD Proposed Amendments consultation and the substantial element within the consultation focused on "Remote Island Wind" seems to me to be enabling in nature.  

The policy environment is therefore more positive than it has been for a long number of years.  Despite that we all have to work hard to ensure that supportive policy environment moves to the next stage and facilitates real, tangible on-the-ground delivery. 

Of real significance is the potential around community benefit and community ownership.  In the Stornoway Wind Farm project the Stornoway Trust has negotiated an ownership stake of up to 20% and in the Uisenis project up to 30% ownership has been negotiated by the Comhairle.

These are substantial ownership stakes, which have the potential, depending on the final configuration of the projects, of putting close around 75MW of clean, green, electricity generation into community ownership. This is unprecedented community potential.

Working with a major developer removes all pre-implementation risk from the community.  Given that planning consents and grid connection contracts are already in place it offers the most effective, low-cost, low-risk way for communities to get involved in renewable energy generation.

We now need to build on that potential and so I am pleased to announce today that the Comhairle and the Stornoway Trust have agreed to explore the establishment of a joint venture vehicle to bring the two ownership stakes together to allow us to achieve economies and to ensure that the potential for ownership within our community is maximised.

I think this partnership between the Trust and the Comhairle, as the two largest democratic bodies in the Outer Hebrides, represents a significant step forward.  Over the next period we will be working together to build the most efficient model in order to deliver benefits to all communities across the Outer Hebrides. 

As we develop the model there will be opportunities for communities across the Outer Hebrides to join with the Comhairle and the Trust to participate in this opportunity and we will have more to say on that in due course

In summary, I think we're presently in the most positive policy environment we've been in for a long time.  Despite the challenges we should move with real optimism towards next year’s CFD auction. Success there will enable us to develop our innovative community driven approach towards ownership and benefits.  

So, with the establishment of this office, Lewis Wind Power has a base from which to engage with the community and to provide project information.  There is a positive story here and Lewis Wind Power should take every opportunity to tell that positive story.

I therefore wish you best success with the establishment of the office and I look forward to working with Lewis Wind Power, the Stornoway Trust and the wider community to deliver, what still remains a potentially transformational opportunity for the Outer Hebrides.