Weekly Update, 17th October 2011

Energy

Scottish Government announced today (Friday) a consultation on the ROC bands applying under the Renewables Obligation (Scotland) mechanism. ROC’s are seen by the renewables industry as an important support mechanism in the key early stages of developing renewables technologies. The key relevant highlight for our area is the proposal to increase the level of ROCs for tidal energy from 3 to 5 per MWhour from 1st April 2013, putting it on a par with wave energy. This could provide a major boost to the tidal sector at a key phase of its development. The consultation will run until January 13th 2012, and copies of the consultation document can be downloaded from http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2011/10/20092837/0

Enabling Activities:

The £4M community benefit fund established by the NDA as part of the construction of the Low-level Waste facility at Dounreay is being launched at Caithness Horizons, Thurso, at 7pm on Monday 24th October. The event is open to the public and CNSF Directors will be present. The aim of the Caithness & North Sutherland Fund (CNSF) is to increase the attractiveness of the area as a place to live, work and invest, with particular focus on supporting the delivery of environmental, social, cultural and infrastructural improvements. The Fund, which is managed by CNSF on behalf of the NDA,  will have an initial £1M to invest in projects once work commences on the construction of the facility, with a further £300,000 added in 2014 and each year thereafter until 2023. The Fund will be open to applications from voluntary/ community organisations in the Dounreay travel-to-work area.

I am currently preparing papers etc for forthcoming meetings of the Partnership’s Executive and Advisory Boards. The Executive Board meeting will be the first attended by Nigel Lowe, the NDA’s new Head of Programme for Dounreay. I met Nigel this week in the company of NDA’s Anna MacConnell, to brief him on the Partnership’s structures, history and forward priorities. We also went on to discuss how best the NDA could continue to play an important role in CNSRP. The CNSRP Advisory Board meeting will include a presentation from the team at Scottish Power Renewables, who are currently working on plans for the tidal energy site at the Ness of Duncansby in the Pentland Firth.

The Partnership’s Delivery Group met this week and focussed on key current issues such as agreeing project-level priorities; developing a robust set of local marine energy actions and reviewing how we are communicating progress in delivering our priorities.

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:

  • Together with Cllr. David Flear and colleagues from Thurso & Wick Trades Council I met Grahame Smith and Stephen Boyd (General Secretary and Assistant Secretary respectively) of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) to update them on progress with the Partnership’s programme, and to highlight forward priorities. Both men were in Caithness on a series of visits, hosted by T&WTC and supported by the Dounreay Stakeholder Group, whose secretary June Love also participated in the meeting. They also met with HIE’s Area Manager Roy Kirk. Today (Friday) the Press & Journal carried coverage of their visit (not online). The Trades Unions at both local and national level have been supporters of the regeneration process required to move our economy away from its dependence on Dounreay work, and it was heartening to hear from them how strong they saw our collective efforts being. Colleagues from the Trades Council are taking the Partnership’s messages to Party Conferences this Autumn, as part of their ongoing programme to raise awareness of the challenges being tackled in this area.
  • Dr Kathleen MacDougall, who has been an important part of the development of the Environmental Research Institute in Thurso, is taking up a new role with the University of the Highlands and Islands supporting the teaching of STEM subjects in the area. You can read more at: http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Boffin-set-to-inspire-STEM-students-7304473.htm
  • The Northern Times carries coverage of the announcement of the purchase of the Nigg yard by Global Energy Group, bringing with it the prospect of significant employment opportunities at the site over the next three or four years at it becomes a hub for servicing the energy industry. http://www.northern-times.co.uk/News/2000-jobs-boost-as-Global-buy-Nigg-yard-20102011.htm The Groat’s coverage features a welcome for the news from MSP Rob Gibson http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Nigg-yard-sale-healed-as-a-breakthough-by-MSP-Rob-Gibson-20102011.htm
  • An interesting article in this week’s Scotsman newspaper from Peter Jones, who visited Caithness earlier this year. It highlights the real asset represented by the skilled Dounreay workforce (direct and supply chain), and paints a compelling picture of the role played by Dounreay in the area’s development over the last 60 years. More at  www.scotsman.com/news/cartoon/peter_jones_nuclear_plant_leaves_positive_fall_out_1_1915733
  • A national competition for new and young businesses in Scotland takes place in Glasgow next month, with opportunities to pitch business ideas to a “Dragon’s Den” style panel, and win £5,000 cash, and around £30,000 worth of support. Further details from www.newstartscotland.com