Boost for Renewables As Minister Hints at Capping
Oct 10, 2007 - The Scotsman
The UK energy minister yesterday signalled
he was prepared to intervene in a row that threatens
to damage Scotland's potential to become a green-energy
Malcolm Wicks hinted he would cap
charges to make it easier for renewable energy schemes
in remote areas to connect to the national grid.
A report last month warned such producers
in the Highlands and Islands could pay connection
charges up to 30 times higher than in other EU countries.
A Scottish delegation told Mr Wicks
such charges discriminated against rural mainland
and island locations.
Officials from Highlands and Islands
Enterprise (HIE) and the councils in Orkney, Shetland
and the Western Isles outlined their concerns that
the industry's growth could be impeded by an unfair
Alex Salmond, the First Minister,
has already called on the electricity regulator
Ofgem to review the connection charges.
It was revealed last month that Ofgem
had backed away from increasing charges for use
of the national grid. It had previously suggested
it was "minded" to charge electricity producers
in remote areas more for connecting to the network.
Mr Wicks told the delegation he shared
their frustration at the high cost of getting electricity
from schemes in the far north to markets south of
He said that achieving connections
to the islands in a timely and cost-effective way
would be an "indispensable" part of unlocking the
huge potential offered by their renewable energy
A spokesman for the minister said:
"We can cap transmission charges from the islands;
it's a power we have.
"It's a tricky issue, with the renewable
resource up in the islands of Scotland but the need
for the electricity further south, so how do we
get that electricity down there without it being
prohibitive? The minister understands the concerns
about the costs. The fact we put this legislation
on the books, that's pretty much a statement of
The delegation called the meeting
with the minister "positive and encouraging".
Elaine Hanton, HIE's head of renewables,
said it had helped press home the message that the
charging policy was putting at risk a cutting-edge
industry that could bring huge benefits.
She said: "The great irony is that
the areas of Scotland which have the most to offer,
in terms of their wind, wave and tidal resource,
are the very ones which have to pay the most to
get their energy on to the grid."
Scotland has 25 per cent of the available
tidal power in Europe and 10 per cent of the continent's
More info: www.ofgem.gov.uk www.hie.co.uk