Renewables sector hits out at grid charges

SCOTLAND’S renewables industry is launching a fresh assault on what it sees as inflated grid connection charges that industry experts say will jeopardise two-thirds of all marine energy projects.

The newly-revised Marine Energy Action Plan says Westminster should do more to cut connection charges which it sees as the biggest barrier to future development.

Critics of the current regime say it discriminates against Scotland’s islands, where charges can be up to 77 times more than those in the south-west of England.

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The revised roadmap from the joint industry and government Marine Energy Group calls for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to help establish consortia from the private sector to collectively underwrite the cost of new grid connections. Should those efforts fail, the DECC should “consider whether government should assume this liability”.

Martin McAdam, chief executive of wave energy specialist Aquamarine Power, said the industry had moved on considerably since the launch of the first action plan in 2009. However, while there has been marked progress in areas such as funding, transmission charging needs “a concerted effort to find solutions”.

He said: “In our view, the proposed high transmission charges for Scottish islands will jeopardise at least 66 per cent of all marine energy projects.”

The new plan demands better access to finance and improvements to the planning regime.

First Minister Alex Salmond, who today attends the 18th British-Irish Council summit in Stirling, said grid development must include a fair system of transmission charging.