Eleanor Scott, MSP for the Highlands and Islands, is calling on the Scottish Executive to boost the renewables industry by working to achieve clear commitments to undersea electricity interconnectors from mainland UK to Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles. Clarity is also needed over the pricing arrangements for renewable energy schemes in the Isles in order to boost projects.
Dr Scott was in Shetland this week, where she was appalled to discover that most of the islands electricity is generated by an inefficient diesel generator that runs at a loss and pumps waste hot water out into Lerwick harbour, because the renewable energy industry is stifled by bureaucratic and political barriers. Dr Scott said: “Itʼs time to reduce reliance on diesel in Lerwick and to help Shetlanders to achieve their aspirations for clean, green energy.”
Dr Scott, after meeting with representatives of the Shetland Renewable Energy Forum, said: “The isles have tremendous renewable energy resources and I have been really impressed this week by how many entrepreneurial people on Shetland are pushing ahead with all sorts of ideas for harnessing wind, tides and waves and even hydrogen. I am particularly excited to see so many community-owned energy schemes and so many plans for Shetlanders to get the maximum local benefits from these resources. There seems to be a clear recognition of how important renewable energy is for the future economy of the isles in the post-oil era, and also a strong commitment to helping the UK achieve renewables targets as part of the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This commitment now needs to be met by central government lifting the barriers to development.
“The electricity infrastructure will underpin renewables development in the north and west. Islanders are seeking assurances that there will be interconnectors between the mainland and the northern and western isles, and clarity about the financial arrangements that will be put in place. Without these it is impossible for them to assess risks or devise business and investment plans.”
Although energy strategy and infrastructure is a reserved matter, renewable energy policy is devolved so the Scottish Executive still has an important role to play, said Dr Scott. “Scottish Ministers must make sure that the Department of Trade and Industry in Westminster makes a renewable energy policy that takes full account of the islands. The DTI spends billions on decommissioning the nuclear industry – investing a fraction of that amount in electricity infrastructure to the islands would be a major boost to our renewables production.”
Commenting on the fact that another barrier to renewables plans is that Ofgem, the electricity regulator, has not yet set electricity charges and tariffs for the northern isles, Dr Scott said: “Ofgemʼs remit is to cut costs for consumers, but it is the job of ministers to make sure that Ofgem does not stifle innovation in this sector. I donʼt believe that we can rely solely on market forces to deliver the soundest strategy for this new industry. Ofgem should take rural development and environmental, social and community impacts into account as well as consumer costs. We urgently need ministers to show some vision and put in place the political and physical infrastructure needed to deliver on our green energy targets.”
(Note: this item was originally published on Eleanor Scott’s Parliamentary website.)