Weekly Update, 13th September 2010

  • The CNSRP Advisory Board met this week in Thurso. Members heard a presentation from Neal Rafferty, Senior Policy Adviser in Scottish Government’s Renewables team. Neal is the co-chair of the Pentland Firth Delivery Group, which brings together Scottish Government, Crown Estate, HIE, Highland & Orkney Islands Councils, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Development International, National Grid, Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission Ltd and Round One Pentland Firth leaseholders/ project partners. The CNSRP Advisory Board is now the local stakeholder group for the Pentland Firth marine energy project, and it was good to hear of supply chain and information events being planned during November. The presentation and discussion highlighted the need for a programme to inform the supply chain on timescales and encourage skills development where required.
  • From now on the Advisory Board will be receiving minutes of all Delivery Group meetings, keeping the lines of communication open.
    A second presentation to the Advisory Board meeting was given by Roy Kirk, HIE’s Area Manager. This presentation focused upon the HIE Area team’s plans for inward investment in our two agreed priority areas of energy (eg. Renewables, oil & gas, biomass) and business services (eg. Remote/ home working, data centres, back-office functions). HIE has agreed contracts to support provision of inward investment marketing materials, and also contracts for inward investment support work.
  • I also updated members on recent activities such as our workforce transition and digital connectivity working groups, both of which have been important in driving forward key pieces of work. It was reported round the table that despite the wider economic outlook a number of recent job announcements had been made. I am currently working on an asessment of job creation numbers over the lifetime of our 2007-2010 Action Plan. As reported last week I will be circulating a  proposed delivery plan round partners for agreement.
  • Two significant consultations to be aware of this week. Firstly Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission Ltd will be holding two public meetings in Caithness (today, Wednesday 15th, 2.00-7.30pm, Ross Institute, Halkirk and tomorrow, Thursday 16th, 2.00-7.30pm Watten Community Hall) to show plans for a 600MW converter station to be built on land near Spittal. However, the exhibition may also touch on future grid plans for Caithness as part of the HVDC (high voltage direct current) reinforcement project. These include an HVDC buried cable connection from the east coast to the converter station; a sub-sea HVDC “hub” somewhere around the Beatrice field; subsea cabling between the “hub” and the Caithness Coast. Plans are already being advanced to increase transmission capacity on the Dounreay-Beauly power line. This work should be completed by end of 2012.
  • The second consultation is being carried out by the Scottish Government into the Renewables Obligation (Scotland) legislation. The ROS obliges electricity suppliers to ensure that a specified proportion of any electricity which they supply to customers in Scotland comes from eligible renewable resources. In Scotland there has been a more favourable regime for wave and tidal than in the rest of the UK (3 and 5 Renewable Obligation Certificates or ROC’s respectively). A report by the marine energy group last year recommended that these levels should be equalised at 5 ROC’s each, but the Scottish Government proposes not to do so at this point in time. Instead it proposes to remove the exclusion on projects receiving these enhanced ROC bands from receiving grant funding. Also from a local perspective there are implications for biomass. The Scottish Government does not intend at this point to implement “grandfathering” for biomass plants – this is the arrangement whereby the ROC level will be set at the level in place when the project is approved, and will exist at that level during the project’s lifetime (up to 20 years). It is a very technical consultation, but it may have implications for renewables schemes in caithness and North Sutherland. Scottish Renewables, the industry body for this sector, has begun gathering responses to the consulattion. You can see a short summary of proposed changes at http://www.scottishrenewables.com/MultimediaGallery/99d7b5e0-a32b-4101-800a-8d4155d532b5.pdf and you can read the consultation paper at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2010/09/06152625/0. Neal Rafferty is the Scottish Government staff member leading on this consultation, which runs until 1st December 2010.