Comment: concern over offshore windfarm planning

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STRONG words in a fascinating climate at Scottish Renewables’ Offshore Wind Conference in Aberdeen today from Mainstream Renewables’ founder and Chief Executive Dr Eddie O’Connor.

Strong because renewable energy industry pioneer Dr O’Connor believes passionately in his topic, and that embracing renewables technology is the only way to avoid, as he puts it, “the horror of climate change”.

Construction of an off-shore windfarm

Construction of an off-shore windfarm

And made in a fascinating climate after Scottish Renewables revealed investment in Scotland by developers with projects in Scottish waters dipped 55% in 2013 compared to 2012 – a figure which has sparked debate across the industry and media.

In Dr O’Connor’s words, “unwarranted delays in public decision making” around the determination of planning consents for offshore wind projects in Scotland have worried developers and investors. Some may dispute how “unwarranted” those delays are, but there is no doubt they are causing frustration throughout the industry.

We also believe continued uncertainty around certain aspects of Electricity Market Reform – a complex process necessary to safeguard the future of electricity generation in the UK, as well as affordable bills for consumers – has also played a significant role in this reduction in investment.

Dr O’Connor, whose company develops renewable projects across the globe, went even further this morning, claiming “the time taken to implement EMR” means “the UK will miss its 2020 climate targets” – a challenge to policymakers in Westminster if ever there was one.

The choppy seas currently being navigated by offshore wind may be creating something of a fallow period for the larger investment decisions, but if the positivity, determination and sheer energy of speakers like Dr O’Connor are anything to go by, 2014 could be the year the sector finally hits the waves running.

Scottish Renewables’ Offshore Wind Conference – the largest such event to be held in Scotland – bustled with activity yesterday as developers and delegates from supply chain businesses met, chatted and (hopefully) did deals in one of the energy industry’s newest sectors. The event continuestomorrow at the AECC.

• Lindsay Leask is a Senior Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables