Weekly Update, 21st November 2011

Energy:

Along with a number of other stakeholders, I attended two events this week related to the development of renewable energy. The first was the public consultation on the proposed Orkney-Caithness subsea cable link. Phase 1 of this is likely to come ashore around the Forss/ Dounreay area, and SSE is currently seeking comments on its plans. The event was a good chance to speak to SSE’s John Scott, who has been a very useful contact point for us. John is moving on within SSE, but the new project manager for the Orkney-Caithness link is Warren Jones, who will be familiar to many from his days at Dounreay. The second event was Moary Offshore renewables Ltd’s exhibition in Wick. Again a number of local businesses and organisations were present to find out updated information on this major project. MORL estimate spending up to £5-6 Bn to deliver the full project. Many of the questions from visitors seemed to revolve around the possible onshore benefits, particularly around operations and maintenance, for which Wick Harbour remains a very attractive proposition.

A reminder that the Crown Estate is holding an event in Thurso next Monday evening, aimed at providing an update on progress with marine energy in the Pentland Firth strategic area. The event will begin at the Weigh Inn Hotel on Monday 28th November at 5.45pm with a light buffet, followed by updates from key speakers at 6.15pm. The event is expected to finish by 8.30pm.

The NDA this week announced that its Board has agreed to take forward the process of transferring exotic fuels from Dounreay to Sellafield. The NDA and DSRL will now take forward any statutory and other consents required. This follows the publication of the original paper on credible options for exotic fuels at Dounreay. A number of comments were made on this paper, and the NDA’s responses to comments can be viewed at http://www.nda.gov.uk/documents/upload/Exotic-Fuels-Dounreay-Fast-Reactor-_DFR_-Breeder-NDA-Response-to-Stakeholder-Comments-on-Credible-and-Preferred-Options-November-2011.pdf

Tourism:

Disappointing news this week that Canisbay Youth Hostel near John O’ Groats is one of five Scottish Youth Hostel Association facilities earmarked for closure. SYHA cites falling occupancy rates and increasing maintenance costs for its decision.

Enabling Activities:

I met this week with colleagues from Energy North (formerly North of Scotland Industries Group), HIE, North Highland College and the Environmental Research Institute to discuss a UHI event being staged in Orkney next spring. The event – “The International Conference on the Environmental Interactions of Marine Renewable Energy Technologies” will bring delegates from around the world, and the organisers are keen to give delegates the opportunity to see how facilities in Caithness are playing a key part in this. We also discussed with Energy North potential for a supply chain event to be held in parallel with the Conference.

As we continue to make the case for the area becoming one of the Uk’s first Marine Energy Parks I participated in a phone meeting with colleagues from HIE, Orkney islands Council, EMEC, Scottish Government and the Department for Energy & Climate Change. There is now broad consensus on the assets we promote within a Pentland Firth/ Orkney Waters bid. As previously reported John Thurso MP and CNSRP Chairman Sir Anthony Cleaver have had direct discussions with DECC’s Minister on this issue.

Highland Council and HITRANS commissioned consultants AECOM to undertake a study into the “internal” transport infrastructure in Caithness in relation to renewable energy, and I met with Council and HITRANS colleagues today (Friday) to hear the latest progress report on AECOM’s work. The final report is expected to highlight any “pinch points” in the area’s road transport network in relation to the energy industries, and to highlight potential solutions.

I also met this week with representatives of the caithness partnership, to discuss future alignment of activities. Caithness partnership currently does some excellent work through its LEADER-supported programme, and facilitates “thematic” groups such as the Caithness Transport Forum.

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: