Weekly Update, 5th September 2011

Energy:
The Pentland Firth & Orkney Waters Leadership Forum met in Kirkwall this week, and I attended representing Highland Council (deputising for Stuart Black).  This is the group of public sector bodies (Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Highland Council, Orkney Islands Council, Marine Scotland and The Crown Estate) seeking to take forward the PFOW leasing round announced last year, maximising the economic and environmental benefits available from the wave and tidal industry. Key to progress is the agreement and communication of public sector plans, and I’m confident that from the comments round the table there is commitment to move on with this job quickly.

I outlined to the meeting some of the work we have done over the summer to develop our thinking on Marine Energy Parks, following contacts initiated by John Thurso MP with the Department for Energy & Climate Change. Also in Orkney were a number of industry figures, and it was good to be able to talk briefly to Dr Andrew Tyler, the new Chief Executive Officer of Marine Current Turbines (leaseholders for the Brough Ness tidal site at the south end of South Ronaldsay) and Niall Stuart, the Chief Executive of industry body Scottish Renewables, whose Marine Conference is being held in Inverness on 19th/ 20th September.

I also had a short meeting this week with representatives of Gills Harbour Association to better understand their current aspirations in the marine energy sector.

Business Services:
International “virtual” business services company Arise, supported by HIE, are running events in Golspie, Wick, Thurso and Tongue this month to promote opportunities to become a home-worker. More information on the types of opportunities available, and the process of becoming a home-worker for Arise, can be found at www.arise.com/uk The  local events will be held at
Golspie Inn (Monday 19th Sept, 10.30-12);
Norseman Hotel, Wick (Monday 19th, 2.30-4pm and 6.30-8pm);
Pentland Hotel, Thurso (Tuesday 20th Sept 9.30-11am and 6.30-8pm);
Tongue Hotel (2.00-3.30pm)

Enabling Activities:
As progress continues with both the “Make the Right Connections” skills transition programme and the STEM schools project, I met with Ian Carse, Area Manager for Skills Development Scotland. We have both been discussing opportunities to join up the range of skills support available and maximise the impact of the facilities we have in the north. We agreed that we will work with partners to develop a proposal that will highlight our area’s ability to act as a “proving ground” for skills development and transition, particularly in the energy sector.

Stuart Black, Director of Planning & Development for Highland Council, presented an Annual Report on CNSRP to this week’s meeting of the full Highland Council in Inverness (see communications below). The paper contained several recommendations, which members agreed to at the meeting. The recommendations approved by members were to:
Agree that the Council should work with HIE and other partners to ensure the successful delivery of the Pentland Firth’s renewable energy potential;
Agree that the Council and other partners will work with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to maximise the impact of its socio-economic activities in Caithness & North Sutherland, including the early development of the National Nuclear Archive project for Wick;
Agree that the cost of enhancements at Berriedale Braes is an affordable solution, and support efforts to secure funding by agreeing to write to the Scottish Government to promote early design and implementation of improvements at Berriedale;
Agree the importance to the area’s business potential of settlements in Caithness and North Sutherland being priorities for early connection to superfast broadband through the HIE-led Next generation Access (NGA) project;
Agree to write to Fergus Ewing MSP, Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism, requesting an early meeting to seek ongoing Scottish Government support for the CNSRP’s efforts.

Communications:
As part of an ongoing process of helping communicate progress with the delivery of aspects of our economic transition programme CNSRP’s partners work together to generate news stories for local, regional and national media. I also speak on a regular basis to individuals and organisations across the area to update on progress. This week:
As mentioned above, Stuart Black, Director of Planning & Development for Highland Council, presented an Annual Report on CNSRP to this week’s meeting of the full Highland Council in Inverness. You can read the report at http://www.highland.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/DC673FF6-84CE-4974-8B4C-628DFB8E80D0/0/Item23HC3511.pdf and, as with all meetings of full Council, a webcast of the meeting is available to view at http://www.highland.public-i.tv/core/portal/home
This month’s Dounreay news carries Partnership-related stories on the Engineering Technology & Energy Centre at North Highland College; the announcement from HIE of its additional £12M funding being fully committed; the DSRL staff/ contractor survey taking place to inform the Study taking place into the updated economic impact of decommissioning; and a piece from the NDA on the recent financial investments into the area from CNSRP partners. http://www.dounreay.com/UserFiles/File/Dounreay%20News/September%202011.pdf
This week saw the start of work on Phase 1 of the development at John O’ Groats, with excellent national coverage in printed media, radio and television. There was a real sense of optimism from Heritage GB Chief Executive Allan Leech and his colleagues from Natural Retreats as they spoke to local businesses and stakeholders at an event at the former hotel site at John O’ Groats. HIE’s press release on this milestone can be read at http://www.hie.co.uk/about-hie/news-and-media/archive/natural-retreats-begins-development-work-to-transform-and-revitalise-john-o-groats.html
The “Energy North” supplement issued quarterly by Scottish Provincial Press was published this week. This paper goes out with key local newspapers in the Highlands and Moray, and as with previous editions it is packed with stories featuring Caithness/ North Sutherland activities. Of note this time is an in-depth interview with Scrabster Harbour Trust Chairman William Calder and Manager Sandy Mackie; news of the extension of HIE’s STEM Ambassador scheme; news of the award to Mey-based Energy Hunt of the subcontract to maintain the Met Mast for the Moray Offshore Renewables project; a piece by HIE’s Calum Davidson reviewing progress in marine renewables; and a piece by myself on the current work going on in Caithness & north Sutherland to push forward the skills agenda. An online version of the supplement should be available soon, but you can read previous editions at http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/Features/Supplements/
BBC One’s prime-time television programme “The One Show” ran a short film this week on why Thurso has the “perfect” waves for surfing. A technical description of the reasons for this was given by Dr Jason McIlvenny, who works at the Centre for Energy & the Environment in Thurso. You can view the programme (broadcast on 08/09/11) at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007tcw7