I was last in Kirkwall in 2014, for a BBC independence referendum debate, during which local MP Alistair Carmichael claimed Scotland’s renewables industry was safe in Westminster hands and would be destroyed b y a Yes vote. He insisted only the UK could afford the infrastructure improvements to enlarge grid capacity and the subsidy needed for developing technologies like marine energy and offshore wind. Of course it would indeed be easier for a large economy like the UK to bear that burden – if its politicians showed the slightest inclination to do so. Three years on it’s crystal clear they don’t. Au contraire. First came the shock post-election announcement in 2015 ending subsidies for onshore wind power. Scotland was particularly hard hit because we supply the bulk of British renewables; 60 per cent of onshore wind and 92 per cent of UK hydro electricity in 2015. All in all Scotland supplies almost a third of the UK renewables total. Then David Cameron scrapped a fund for carbon-capture – a technology he once described as “crucial” – earmarked for Peterhead. And in November 2015, tax relief on investments in community renewables was axed, drawing most new community win d, solar, hydro or biomass projects in Scotland to a premature grinding halt. If that’s protection, I’d hate to see the effects of active Conservative hostility. There’s a massive problem of grid connection. The infrastructure that lets Orkney send renewable energy into the grid consists of two measly 30 MW cables – a hangover from days when energy was produced centrally in fossil fuel power stations and pumped to remote areas. Now the direction of travel has reversed entirely. On most days both cables are full of green Orkney electricity heading south and there could be far more – a recent Crown Estates Commission survey found almost 2GW available. But there’s no room left in the old cables and despite decades of humming and hawing about new, bigger island inter connectors, prospects look bleak for all but Shetland where the controversial 400MW Viking wind farm will apparently justify the cost.
Scotsman 29th May 2017 read more »