Weekly Update, 31st October 2011

Energy:

Scottish Government Energy Minister Fergus Ewing MSP has initiated a Government Taskforce to help develop offshore renewables (offshore wind, wave and tidal). The Taskforce’s first meeting was last Friday, and it aims to focus on ensuring developers provide good applications, and also on ensuring that the licensing/ consenting process deals with development applications swiftly. The taskforce will help companies planning offshore wind and marine projects speed this up, while maintaining vital checks and balances on their environmental impact. It will help developers to share best practice, ensure better sharing of data, and help improve communication between developers and key stakeholders. More at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2011/10/28111208

On a similar topic, companies developing marine renewable energy gathered this week to share ideas and experiences relating to offshore wind, wave and tidal energy development. The event, hosted by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Marine Scotland, is part of SNH’s Sharing Good Practice programme. The event aimed to allow SNH and MS to share the research, guidance and best practice on offshore wind, wave and tidal energy that they have been involved in over the past two years. In particular these include good practice information on wildlife survey and monitoring requirements prior to consenting and installing devices.

Following the recent meeting of CNSRP’s Delivery Group we have been developing a “Road Map” for marine energy in the north Highland area. Our aim is to capture clear, accountable actions that partners can deliver in the following workstreams: Consenting; Manufacturing; Installation; Operations & Maintenance; Support & enabling activity; Marketing. A draft plan is currently being discussed amongst partners, and will feed into wider Road Map work being taken forward through the Pentland Firth & Orkney Waters leadership Forum.

Other sectors:

It was announced in Westminster this week that the MoD’s Vulcan Naval Reactor Test Establishment in Caithness will not be required as part of the MoD’s new submarine programme. Peter Luff MP, The Minister of State for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, said that options for the future of the site are currently being assessed: he said “these range from placing the prototype facilities into care and maintenance while retaining the site’s strategic capabilities, to decommissioning the site and returning it to Nuclear Decommissioning Authority ownership. We will work closely with the Department for Energy and Climate Change, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Scottish Government during this process.” The site, operated by Rolls Royce, provides employment for around 265 people, plus supply chain contractors. In comments to local press this week I have suggested that there may be a business case for Rolls Royce to remain in Caithness beyond Vulcan operations. We have also had the experience of close partnership working over the past four years in helping address the decommissioning of Dounreay, and we stand ready to help address the impacts of changing circumstances for the site. This important issue is now on the Agenda for next week’s Executive Board, and will also be discussed at the Advisory Board. More at: http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/200-Caithness-jobs-in-firing-line-at-Vilcan-base-03112011.htm

Enabling Activities:

I attended the Dounreay Stakeholder Group’s socio-economic subgroup this week and delivered my quarterly update on behalf of partners. Alan Ogg from North Highland College gave a presntation on the new Engineering Technology and Energy centre (ETEC) at the College in Thurso, and members discussed how best to communicate the area’s clear competitive edge in terms of skills development.

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:

  • Papers have been issued to members of CNSRP’s Advisory and Executive Boards for their respective meetings next week. The Advisory Board will hear a presentation from representatives of Scottish Power Renewables, the leaseholder for the Ness of Duncansby tidal energy site in the Pentland Firth.
  • CNSRP’s Newsletter is ready to go to print, and has been redesigned to feature the brand associated with the CNSRP Vision document. The CNSRP website is also ready for relaunching. I have also been working with colleagues to produce short leaflets describing our 2007-10 achievements; our 2011-14 priorities and our 2011-14 delivery plan.
  • The Press & Journal this week covered the AGM of Scrabster Harbour Trust, at which Trust Chairman William Calder spoke of the exciting progress being made at the harbour, and the Trust’s involvement with a marine energy developer. I gave a quote welcoming the news as further evidence that concrete progress is being made with marine energy developments (not online)
  • Welcome news that Loganair’s six-day service between Wick and Edinburgh will continue through the Winter months following a 20% rise in passenger numbers using the route. Passenger figures at Wick have shown encouraging improvements this year, and HIAL’s ongoing investment work in runway lighting etc is also good news. More at http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/THE-number-of-passengers-using-the-direct-route-between-Wick-and-Edinburgh-airports-has-risen-significantly-compared-to-last-year.htm
  • The Northern Times reports this week that the new Halladale Hall was officially opened by Cllr Linda Munro following almost five years of planning and fundraising. The work was supported by, amongst others, CNSRP partners HIE and Highland Council. You can view a slide show of “before and after” shots at http://www.northern-times.co.uk/News/Halladales-new-hall-opened-03112011.htm
  • Local people in and around Bettyhill are being invited along to an evening reception by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) at Bettyhill Village Hall next Tuesday (8th November) from 7pm to 9pm. Andrew Thin, SNH chairman, will host the event, along with local area manager Lesley Cranna, who sits on the CNSRP Advisory Board.The event is free and light refreshments will be provided.  Further information is available from Alexander Macdonald or Tracey Morrison, SNH, The Links, Golspie, Tel 01408 634 063.
  • Finally, Caithness & North Sutherland will feature in the BBC One programme “Grand Tours of Scotland” next week (BBC One, Wednesday, 8.30pm)