Weekly Update, 23rd January 2012
Representatives from CNSRP partners Highland Council and HIE – together with a representative from Orkney Islands Council – this week presented a proposal for a Pentland Firth/ Orkney waters Marine Energy Park to the UK government’s Marine Energy Programme Board. The proposal was given a very positive reception, strengthening hopes that the area will become the UK’s second Marine Energy Park, following this week’s launch of the South West of England as the UK’s first (see http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/news/pn12_003/pn12_003.aspx for the Dept of Energy & Climate Change’s press release on the SW Park). Later this week in the House of Commons John Thurso MP questioned DECC Minister Greg Barker MP on the proposal for a Marine Energy Park in the north. See Communications below for coverage of the Minister’s commitment to bring his Marine Energy Programme Board to the north this summer, when he hoped there would be “some good news on the creation of the second marine energy park in the UK”.
I attended the ERI’s successful open evening this week, and was able to speak to Andrew Malkin from Scottish & Southern Energy, who attended to raise awareness of the skills requirements SSE will have as it works on the £1Bn programme to upgrade the electricity Grid in the north. There are significant opportunities for supply chain benefit in the north across a range of support services, and SSE are keen to engage with local companies and organisations to highlight these. Ofgem this week announced plans to “fast-track” plans by both SSE and Scottish Power to carry out multi-billion-pound upgrade work to the electricity transmission Grid in Scotland (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-16685623)
The role of the area’s airports in stimulating interest from the energy sector is highlighted by HIAL’s Managing Director Inglis Lyons in a piece in this week’s Press & Journal. The piece highlights work at Scrabster, and highlights the potential for both Wick and Kirkwall airports to benefit from renewables and oil & gas traffic. http://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/2606741
I have mentioned recent discussions on what local provision is to be put in place to communicate future skills requirements and career opportunities – an early example of action on this issue will be the staging next week by local engineering companies of an event to raise awareness of current and planned opportunities. Local companies and organisations JGC, Nuvia, Calder Engineering, Kongsberg Maritime, Rolls Royce, DSRL and North Highland College are behind the event, which is aimed at school and college students, parents, teachers and the wider public. The event will be held in the College’s new Engineering, Technology & Energy Centre (ETEC) on Thursday 2nd February from 6.30pm-8.30pm.
Scottish & Southern Energy will be holding a public exhibition on plans for the upgrading of the electricity substation on the A9 just outside of Thurso. This is part of the larger ongoing project to upgrade the existing 132kV overhead lines between Spittal-Thurso and Thurso-Dounreay to 275kV as part of the overall Grid reinforcement programme in the north. The drop-in event will run from 2pm-7pm next Wednesday, 1st February at Caithness Horizons, Thurso.
The Caithness Transport Forum met this week, and heard a presentation of the results of the study (commissioned by HITRANS and Highland Council) into how the area’s “internal” roads network was placed in relation to the development of the energy sector. Consultants AECOM said that their conclusions reinforced the importance of facilities at or close to our main ports. The final report will be available online very soon. The Transport Forum also heard encouraging updates on activities at Wick Airport from Station Manager William Sutherland, and were encouraged to hear of further progress in discussions with Transport Scotland about road improvements at Berriedale Braes.
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:
- John Thurso MP – who first raised the opportunity to attract Marine Energy Park status to the north in January 2011 – questioned DECC Minister Greg Barker this week on the subject of a Marine Energy Park for the Pentland Firth area. The Minister’s comments were very positive, and the news is carried on the front page of today’s (27th January) Press and Journal http://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/2613684 and in the John O’Groat Journal at http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Pentland-Firth-could-become-first-energy-park-in-Scotland-26012012.htm
- As the Highland Council’s CARS scheme comes to an end Councillors have approved grants worth around £500,000 for work to properties around the Harbour quay area of Wick. http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/500k-to-fund-repair-of-historic-buildings-in-Pulteneytown-25012012.htm
- Both the Northern Times and the Caithness Courier last week carried coverage of HIE’s update on the Next Generation Broadband procurement currently underway, which now has BT Scotland as sole bidder (not online).