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Scottish Government’s ‘Shambolic’ Renewables Policy: Rhoda Grant MSP

Rhoda Grant, Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands has called Scotland’s energy supply and production system ‘disorganised’ and has criticised the SNP for its Renewable Energy policy.

The MSP has urged the Scottish Government to place communities at the heart of its Renewable Energy plans and urgently improve energy networks to capitalise on Scotland’s natural resources.

Rhoda Grant said:

“We are home to some of the best renewable energy in the world, yet where are the jobs?

“BiFab workers in Fife and on Lewis are seeing their futures disappear, while multinational companies line their pockets from our natural resources. The actions of a Government should never lead to the decimation of an industry.”

Mrs Grant said that communities should be supported in generation and transmission of energy from areas rich in natural resources, but that instead the lack of investment and support had led to a failing infrastructure and an industry on the brink of collapse.

Raising the recent failures of the power cable between Skye and Harris which has left the two largest islands in the Outer Hebrides reliant on fossil fuel stations for the foreseeable future, Rhoda Grant said:

“Because that connection is down, the renewable energy that is generated on the island cannot be distributed. That means that clean energy is going to waste while fossil fuels are being used to generate electricity.

“That has a knock-on impact for many of the small-scale community generators that feed into the system, because they no longer have a market for their clean energy.

“For many years, I have been pushing for an interconnector to those islands, which would have distributed energy, had it been built. The campaign will go on, while a new cable is laid to replace the damaged cable.

“That just shows just how disorganised our system is. Surely the replacement cable should provide additional capacity, and surely there should have been a better back-up than a diesel-powered station from the last century—yet that is what serves us.”

Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse said that the Scottish Government would investigate the potential for batteries to be installed to allow some of the renewable capacity being generated within island communities to be used as an alternative to the fossil fuel power station.

The 33,000-volt subsea electricity distribution cable connecting Lewis and Harris to the Scottish mainland, is to be replaced by SSEN (Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks). A statement from SSEN confirms a fault on the 32km cable, which runs from Ardmore, Skye to Beacravik, Harris around 15km from the shore on Skye. Based on the depth of the water at the fault location, which is over 100m, a repair has now been ruled out and a full replacement is required.

SSEN has initiated the procurement process to source a replacement cable, is reviewing the availability of cable-laying vessels and has undertaken preliminary engagement on marine licensing consents. 

It is thought the process will take 6 – 12 months.

Mark Rough, Director of Customer Operations at SSEN, said:

“We know how important a safe, secure and reliable supply of electricity is to our customers and we’re acting as quickly as possible to progress this significant cable replacement project.

“We’d like to reassure our customers that our well-established resilience plans are in place to maintain power supplies to local homes and businesses as we source and install the new cable. Our power stations are designed and maintained to carry out full operations and play a crucial role to keep the power flowing during this type of situation.

“To maintain system stability, there will be restrictions to generation export until the network is restored to normal operation. We remain committed to exploring options and solutions to maximise the amount of renewable generation that can run and are undertaking one-to-one conversations with affected generators on Lewis and Harris as a priority.

“We have been engaging with local stakeholders throughout the week and met with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar this morning to provide a full update.  A further meeting has been scheduled for next week to provide an update on progress.”

As a result of the cable fault several community owned wind turbines in the islands have been shut off. This will result in a substantial loss of income to those organisations.

BiFab

Professor Jim Skea, Chair of the Just Transition Commission, wrote to the Scottish Government on 2nd of November 2020, adding his concerns over the situation at BiFab.

The Commission raised significant concerns about the potential risks posed to the credibility of a Just Transition for Scotland.

And described it as a ‘pivotal moment’ in ‘asserting, perhaps even maintaining, the principles of just transition’.

The letter calls on the Scottish Government to invest in the supply chain and for:

  • the need for clear transition plans
  • the need for proactive and ongoing dialogue to help understand society’s expectations relating to the transition
  • placing equity and justice at the heart of climate policies

The Programme for Government set out by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, on 1st September 2020, aimed to lay out plans for ‘a stronger, more resilient, more sustainable economy – with a laser focus on creating new, good, green jobs’

BiFab (Burntisland Fabrications Ltd) has yards at Methil and Burntisland in Fife and Arnish in the Western Isles. It was acquired by Canadian company JV Driver , through its subsidiary D F Barnes, as part of an agreement brokered by the Scottish Government. It provides fabrication for the oil and gas sector and the growing renewables industry. The Scottish Government has a minority holding in BiFab.

The Scottish Government recently pulled out of supporting a BiFab bid to manufacture 8 turbine jackets on the NnG wind farm project .

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