Council Leader looks for powerful support

Angus Campbell has written a trio of letters requesting assistance or intervention following the latest blow to renewable energy in the islands.

The Comhairle leader has penned letters to the Prime Minister David Cameron, the First Minister for Scotland Alex Salmond and to Dominique Ristori of the European Commission citing their belief that the Western Isles have been unfairly discriminated against.

Explaining to Mr Cameron and Mr Salmond that developer GDF Suez, who recently pulled out of the planned 39-wind turbine development at Eishken Estate on Lewis, did so following the ongoing delays in the proposed subsea interconnector.

He wrote: “The developer cited their frustration at the on-going delays around the roll-out of grid infrastructure as the main cause for their decision.  

“Although I am hopeful of a successor project emerging, we cannot get away from the fact that on-going uncertainty is having a hugely detrimental impact on local market confidence and local investment prospects.  

“This is the third major developer to have walked away from a project in the Outer Hebrides as a result of a lack of grid.

“The responsibility for the on-going uncertainty around grid connection has to be placed with the transmission operator Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission (SHE-T).  and the regulator OFGEM.  

“Both organisations are critical to the achievement of the Outer Hebrides renewable energy aspirations but their approach and performance over the last period has been totally unsatisfactory; the last five years being characterised by delay, obfuscation and a lack of transparency.

“Disappointingly they appear to be adding new tests to the process for grid reinforcement to the Outer Hebrides. The latest requirement is an “ask” of developers to make their “project modelling” available.

“As far as I’m aware this is not a requirement for any other part of the UK network – developer commitment being displayed through the relevant securities and underwritings.

“Developers are understandably reluctant to engage in this type of ad hoc approach given the precedent it may open. If this isn’t a requirement for grid development in any other part of the UK network then it should not be a requirement for the Outer Hebrides.”

In his letter to the Mr Ristori, Campbell requests an opinion on whether the isles have been discriminated against.

He enquires: “We are seeking your views on whether the United Kingdom’s Electricity Transmission Charging regime represents discrimination or disadvantage against the Scottish Islands as set out in Directive 2009/28/EC of 23 April 2009.”

Detailing the situation on the isles which has seen GDF Suez withdraw from the Beinn Mhor project which could have powered 100,000 homes Councillor Campbell added: “This situation is absolutely unacceptable to us and we are concerned at the apparent unwillingness of the UK Government and the UK Energy Regulator to intervene in a situation which we feel to be discriminatory or, at the very least, highly disadvantageous.”