Isles’ interconnector project under threat

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The next three months will be a “crucial decision-making period” for the future of the interconnector project according to the Comhairle leader.

The fate of the subsea cable capable of transporting renewable energy between Stornoway and the mainland was hanging in the balance this week as SSE told the Gazette there is no set date for the re-submission of the needs case (required for the planning process) to energy regulator OFGEM.

This was following an announcement from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) which stated the strike price for the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland will be the same, £115 per MWh. This means developers would be guaranteed £115 per MWH and if the market price for energy fell below that they would be reimbursed by a Government subsidy scheme. However there are fears this may not be enough to make Western Isles projects financially viable.

A DECC spokesperson said: “Setting separate strike prices for each of the isles would not be cost effective - the Western Isles, for example, would require a strike price similar to offshore wind.”

SSE are now contacting renewable energy developers in the Western Isles to gauge if the energy projects are still viable.

An SSE spokesperson said: “We will be writing out to developers to see if there is a clear commitment from them and establish if there is a need for the project. Until we understand from developers what the stance is we can’t submit a needs case.”

She continued: “If all developers came back and say it doesn’t work for us then there would be no need for the project.”

SHE-Transmission, the sister company of SSE which is developing the link, operates under licence and is the only company that can provide the network connection.

The spokesperson continued: “Because we operate under licence if there is one developer who wants connection to the network we have to provide the solution. We would have to come up with a solution depending on what developers were still in the game.”

She added: “If it is a solution for connection that is less than is required at the moment, it could be another project.”

Commenting on the news Comhairle leader, Angus Campbell, said: “The Comhairle recognises that the following three months will be a crucial decision-making period for both developers and SHE-Transmission.

“We will remain in contact with developers, SHE-Transmission and both the UK and Scottish Governments to ensure that a positive outcome is achieved.”

For more details see this week’s Stornoway Gazette, out now.