Weekly update, 25th May

Energy & Business Services

Catching up this week with June Love and Roy Kirk of HIE, who continue to meet companies with an interest in establishing operations in the area. Several discussions have re-opened following an understandably quieter period for companies in the oil & gas industry. The overwhelming focus on cost effectiveness in the industry continues to attract interest in the north.

Good to read Gordon Calder’s piece in the Caithness Courier about Atlantis Resources and the MeyGen project. Atlantis Chief Executive and Chairman both remain confident of the project’s planned 2016 date for generating power from turbines to be located at the Inner Sound of the Pentland Firth. As previously covered, the project’s onshore infrastructure at Ness of Quoys near Gills is progressing, and the turbines and cables also remain on course for delivery. http://www.meygen.com/about-phase-1a/

Following last week’s mention of works to enhance the electricity grid in the north, good to see press coverage of SSE Power Distribution’s plans to progress the Caithness-Moray project by beginning the work to build a new substation at Geiselittle near Thurso and to create access points along the route of the Dounreay-Mybster line upgrade route. More details at http://news.ssepd.co.uk/news/all-articles/2015/05/dounreay-and-mybster-prepare-for-overhead-line-upgrade/

Enabling activities:

Caithness Transport Forum met this week, bringing transport providers, agencies and local stakeholders together to hear updates on key transport issues and to discuss progress with relevant bodies. It was good to make views known to the new rail franchise holder for the Far North Line; to hear from Stagecoach about plans for further enhancements to its services; to hear from Serco Northlink about its continuing work to make information on the Caithness area available to passengers on it sailings; and to discuss with Highland Council the impact of traffic calming measures in Wick. The Forum is managed by Caithness Chamber of Commerce with funding from CNSRP partners DSRL and Highland Council, and minutes of the Forum’s previous discussions are available at http://caithnesschamber.com/projects/caithness-transport-forum

CNSRP partner the Highland Council’s Caithness & Sutherland Area Committee met this week, and discussed the responses to the local Development Plan, which was the subject of a major consultation exercise throughout the north over the past few months. The development of the Main Issues Report for the Plan has been shortlisted for an award in the Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning. The meeting also heard a presentation from the North Highland Initiative’s Claire Farquhar on its “North Coast 500” project. You can watch the broadcast of the meeting at http://www.highland.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/177280

Good to see this week that the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) has been formally approved by the European Commission. This £1.3bn programme covers a range of interventions in farming, crofting, forestry food & drink, as well as rural economic development through sub-programmes such as LEADER. For further information on the programmes which will be available through SRDP see http://www.gov.scot/Topics/farmingrural/SRDP

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:

  • Two representatives from Japan were in Caithness this week, and I was able to meet them together with David Flear and Derrick Milnes of the Dounreay Stakeholder Group. The two, from the Federation of Electric Power Companies and the Central Research Institute of Electric Power Companies (both in Tokyo) were interested in the ways in which local communities were able to interact with Dounreay, and help shape socio-economic plans. It was also good this week to be invited by local NDA staff to meet with NDA Chief Financial Officer David Batters during his visit to the area. He is the NDA Executive Director with direct responsibility for DSRL.
  • Scottish Provincial Press issued its latest “Energy North” Supplement this week with all of its titles in the Highlands. As always there are a number of interesting articles including an update on Wave Energy Scotland from new MD Tim Hurst; the role of women in renewable energy; the Local Energy Challenge Fund; and a sober assessment of current oil & gas issues. I also contribute regular update articles to the Supplement.