Weekly update, 22nd February

Energy & Business Services:

Good to see in Gordon Calder’s piece in today’s John O’ Groat Journal the upbeat views from Project Director David Taaffe on the likely jobs impact of the MeyGen tidal energy project. The news is also given a balanced and thoughtful welcome in the paper’s Leader Column. The onshore infrastructure to enable power conversion from the tidal project is progressing well, and commissioning works to complete the electricity Grid connection are expected in April. As reported last week, parent company Atlantis Resources Ltd has published a project newsletter covering the range of project activities currently taking place. http://atlantisresourcesltd.com/images/pdf/Meygen%20Newsletter%20201602.pdf

Repsol, the Spanish energy company, has sold its 25% stake in Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd (BOWL) to Chinese company SDIC Power (part of the State-owned SDIC Group of companies). As previously reported, it is hoped that a final investment decision on the BOWL project is a matter of weeks away. Wick harbour is in an excellent position to attract operations and maintenance work from this major project. http://renews.biz/101689/repsol-exits-uk-offshore/

An interesting new opportunity, which has attracted funding from CNSRP partner the NDA,  is being promoted this week. Innovate UK’s “Energy Game Changer” fund, announced last year, now stands at £2 million including NDA’s £500,000 contribution. The scheme is designed as a competition to support Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) currently working outside the energy industry to become new entrants into all sectors of the energy industry, including oil, gas and nuclear. The NDA is particularly interested in technologies that could be applied to decommissioning challenges. More information is at  http://www.nda.gov.uk/2016/01/500k-nuclear-boost-for-new-fund-supporting-innovative-energy-projects/

Enabling Activities:

The CNSRP Delivery Group met this week, and heard a presentation from the team at KPMG who have been carrying out research on two related oil & gas areas – the relative costs of setting up logistics/ support services in Caithness, and understanding the relative strengths of local supply chain companies tendering for oil & gas related work. The team’s work is drawing out some interesting comparisons with other geographic areas, and drawing out some high-level opportunities, so we look forward to further progress in the coming weeks. The work was commissioned by CNSRP partner HIE with financial support from Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd.

Caithness Chamber of Commerce has announced that further funding has been released to the Caithness Business Fund to support the start-up of growth of local businesses. The Chamber manages the Fund on behalf of Baillie Windfarm Ltd, who set the Fund up in 2013 with a commitment to provide £25,000 (RPI index-linked) over 25 years. For more information on how the Fund can help businesses see http://www.caithnessbusinessfund.co.uk/how-to-apply

I was invited with other local stakeholders this week to offer input to the formal Review of North Highland College UHI, which is being undertaken by Education Scotland (formerly delivered through predecessor body HM Inspectorate of Education). We were able to speak about the wide range of College engagement evident in our work, and it was particularly pleasing to be able to draw out the hugely integrated way in which the College works, both through the activities of CNSRP and through its own integrated networks. The Review is part of a four-year programme covering all of Scotland’s Colleges.

As the rollout of fibre-based broadband continues across the area, it was encouraging to hear this week that CNSRP partner HIE’s “Discover Digital 2016” conference next month has already sold out. The event will bring together speakers from industry giants such as Google, IBM and Microsoft to talk about key issues such as digital marketing, use of data to drive business growth and cyber resilience. There was also a useful reminder that whilst fibre infrastructure continues to progress, and cabinets continue to go “live” in towns and villages such as Wick, Thurso, Halkirk, Thrumster and Bettyhill, superfast connectivity is not an automatic upgrade for businesses and domestic premises – services need to be order from Internet Service Providers (ISPs). For more information on the rollout programme and ordering services please see http://www.hie.co.uk/digital

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:

  • The publication of the CNSRP 2015 Annual Review continues to attract coverage in local and regional media.  This week coverage of the Review is on the front page of the “Energy North” Supplement that is published with all Scottish Provincial Press titles in the Highlands, including the Northern Times and John O’ Groat Journal. Energy North Editor Alan Hendry and his team have once again assembled a great range of stories from across the area, including news on the West of Shetland oil & gas fields, and an update on the innovative research activities at the ERI in Thurso. As previously reported, an electronic copy of the Annual Review is available to download at http://www.cnsrp.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/CNSRP-Annual-Review-2015.pdf