Weekly Update, 11th June 2012

Energy:
The Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy & Tourism Committee was in Caithness this week as part of its inquiry into the achievability of the Scottish Government’s 2020 renewable energy targets. Members of the committee visited various local sites including North Highland College, Scrabster Harbour, Wick Harbour and Wick Airport, and HIE hosted a business breakfast at the Engineering, Technology & Energy Centre at which local businesses and stakeholders were able to give their views on the renewable energy sector in the north.

The visit came as the Crown Estate was publishing a new report on “Offshore Wind Cost Reduction Pathways” and UK Government’s industry-led Offshore Wind Cost Reduction Task Force published its initial recommendations on steps needed to reduce the costs of generating power from offshore wind from £140 per MW hour to £100 per MW hour by 2020. Meanwhile Scottish Government Energy Minister Fergus Ewing MSP told delgates to the Global Offshore Wind conference in London this week that many of the steps outlined in the two reports were being taken forward in Scotland. As I have previously reported, the potential to derive onshore employment opportunities from the offshore wind sites in the Moray Firth remain key ambitions for our area. Both reports can be accessed at http://www.thecrownestate.co.uk/energy/offshore-wind-energy/working-with-us/strategic-workstreams/cost-reduction-study/ and
http://www.renewableuk.com/pdf/publications/Offshore_Task_Force_Report.pdf

I also participated this week in a teleconference as part of a group that is advising contractors commissioned to examine issues relating to the build out of small-scale wave and tidal arrays.

The NDA and its site license companies are to simplify sub-contract requirements following concerns that SME’s in particular were finding its terms and conditions for these sub-contracts (so-called “Flowdowns”) difficult to understand. Changes include a raising of the threshold at which Flowdowns will apply from £50,000 to £150,000 and clearer wording. More at http://www.nda.gov.uk/stakeholders/newsletter/flowdowns-simplified.cfm

Tourism:
The potential re-opening the Thurso cinema facility – which closed in 2009, and was seen as a key “wet-weather” facility – is the subject of a public meeting in Thurso’s Pentland Hotel tonight (Friday 15th) at 7.00pm, at which HIE will host Rob Arthur of Thurso Cinema Ltd.  http://www.hie.co.uk/about-hie/news-and-media/archive/community-views-invited-into-reopening-of-thurso-cinema.html

Wick’s Diamond Jubilee HarbourFest kicks off at Wick Harbour tonight with a SeaFest concert, followed by events in and around the harbour on Saturday and Sunday. The event attracts large crowds, as well as substantial numbers of visiting boats using the harbour marina. Features on the event, and a programme, downloadable from http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/Features/Supplements/

Enabling Activities:
Caithness Chamber’s “Innovation Challenge” – which was launched in April by Rob Gibson MSP and is supported by NDA and Babcock Dounreay Partnership – will have two public information days this month for prospective applicants. They will be held at Dounreay’s public information office in Olrig Street, Thurso on Tuesday 19th June (2-4pm) or Tuesday 26th June (10am-12pm). More info on this competition from http://investcaithness.com/innovation-challenge

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:

  • I attended this week’s meeting of the Dounreay Stakeholder Group, which receives a quarterly copy of my written update report. The meeting had presentations from Nigel Lowe, the NDA Head of Programme for Dounreay and from Dounreay MD Roger Hardy – both on the new decommissioning contract. Both presentations also gave further insights into economic and socio-economic plans over the coming years. The meeting also featured discussions on the utilisation of local labour in major contracts on the Dounreay site, and heard an encouraging update on Rolls-Royce activities at the adjoining Vulcan site.
  • I mentioned in my previous update that I had contributed an article to Scottish Provincial Press’s “Energy North” supplement, which was published this week. The supplement also features articles from HIE’s Calum Davidson and others, as well as an excellent range of current news stories. An electronic version is not yet online, but the publication appears in the John O’Groat Journal, Northern Times, Rossshire Journal, Inverness Courier and Northern Star.
  • Caithness Chamber of Commerce has a new Chairman. Following Neil Robertson’s decision to stand down from the post Stephen Sutherland, a Director at JGC Engineering & Technical Services, takes over as Chairman, with Bill Baxter of Kongsberg Maritime taking over Stephen’s role as Vice-Chairman. Neil remains on the Chamber Board.
  • The arrival of the Olympic flame at John o’ Groats last Sunday attracted a huge crowd – estimated at 2,500 – to the harbour area, bringing a very welcome boost to local businesses in the process. Congratulations to everyone who ensured the day’s range of events went well, and to Highland Council for originally working with Olympic Torch Relay organisers to make the event possible. http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Crowds-gather-at-John-OGroats-to-welcome-the-Olympic-Flame-13062012.htm