MINISTERS at both Holyrood and Westminster must jointly pledge to improve the grid connections to Scotland’s islands within the next few years, a green energy boss has said.
Niall Stuart, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, said the two governments must commit to getting Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles connected by 2020.
Such a move would help power companies harness wind energy from the islands, and would also boost the development of wave and tidal power.
Mr Stuart, speaking at the Scottish Renewables’ marine conference in Inverness, said: “If there is one obvious failure of the current regulation of our industry it is the lack of grid connections to Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles - home to the country’s best wind resources and key to the development of wave and tidal power.
“We want to see the Scottish and UK governments commit to getting the islands connected before 2020. No ifs. No buts. No maybes. This will allow the islands to contribute to the cleaning-up of our energy sector, while benefiting from the jobs and investment that would follow.”
New paper for green energy sector
He was speaking as Scottish Renewables published a new paper setting out the way ahead for the £1 billion a year green energy sector in the wake of last week’s independence referendum.
It calls on the Scottish and UK governments to agree a joint strategy document, setting out the overall energy policy for the UK and the role that the devolved administrations can play in delivering it.
It also wants the Scottish Government to be given a formal role in drafting the strategy and policy document of the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), which gives strategic direction to the energy regulator Ofgem.
Meanwhile the Scottish Parliament should have a formal role in holding Ofgem to account for its regulatory decisions in Scotland, with an annual session where MSPs can quiz the chief executive, Scottish Renewables suggested.
Mr Stuart said: “Given the importance of the contribution that Scotland and the other devolved nations will make to the UK’s energy ambitions, and the growing importance of the sector to all our economies, we believe that it is time for a more co-ordinated and strategic approach to the formation of energy policy across the UK.
The optimal energy mix for the UK
“This should reflect our respective strengths, resources and priorities, and be designed to deliver the optimal energy mix for the UK as we seek to keep down costs for consumers, increase energy security and cut carbon emissions.”
He continued: “We also believe that it is time for changes to the governance of Ofgem to ensure greater alignment between the energy policies and priorities of the UK and Scotland, with a ‘Scottish Commissioner’ on the Ofgem board and an annual report by Ofgem to the Scottish Parliament.
“All these proposals will increase the contribution that Scotland can make to energy security, employment, investment and reduced carbon emissions - to the benefit of everyone in the United Kingdom.”
Climate change targets
Lang Banks, director of the environmental group WWF Scotland, said: “If we’re serious about keeping the lights on and meeting our climate change targets, then now is a good time to discuss what improvements could be made to speed up the roll-out of renewables and deliver a step change in energy efficiency.
“Scotland already generates one third of all the UK’s renewable electricity, helping to create jobs and avoid millions of tonnes of carbon emissions.
“It wouldn’t take much for politicians to unlock far more of Scotland’s massive renewable energy potential.”