Weekly update, 29th March to 2nd May

Energy & Business Services:

  • JGC Engineering Services announced an important contract award in late March. The company has been awarded a major contract to support the £1.3bn Rampion offshore windfarm development off the south coast of England. This is the company’s first involvement in offshore wind, and will involve the design, manufacture and supply of support modules. More on the Rampion project at https://www.eonenergy.com/About-eon/our-company/generation/planning-for-the-future/wind/offshore/rampion-offshore-wind-farm/project-information
  • Atlantis Resources Ltd, who own the MeyGen tidal project in the Inner Sound of the Pentland Firth, made a major funding announcement in early April. The company has reached a deal with Equitix, an infrastructure investor, worth £100M over the next two years. This would see Equitix acquiring 25% of each project vehicle Atlantis Resources develops for tidal power projects in Scotland. Atlantis expects to invest £500M of capital in its Scottish projects in the next two years, and it is already delivering its £51M Phase 1a project in the Inner Sound, with fundraising of a similar scale for Phase 1b expected to be complete by the end of 2016. I was delighted to be able to look at progress on the ground at Ness of Quoys last month in the company of Eddie Scott from Atlantis and Bruce Mackay, site manager. http://atlantisresourcesltd.com/media-centre/atlantis-annoucements/81-2016-annoucements/402-partnership-with-infrastructure-investor-equitix-equitix.html
  • Hexicon, the company seeking to develop a floating offshore wind demonstration project in the sea north of Dounreay, has announced additional investment of 25M Swedish Kr following a recent shares issue. http://renews.biz/102214/hexicon-ropes-floater-cash
  • Great to see that Subsea 7 has won a major North Sea contract that will bring work to its site at Wester, north of Wick. The contract for Apache North Sea will involve work beginning early next year.
  • Restore UK, who will operate CNSRP partner the NDA’s Archive facility in Wick when it opens at the end of this year, has begun the process of recruiting staff. The company will – with partners Key FM, Highlife Highland and Profile Security – be holding an event in the Pulteney Centre, Wick next Wednesday (11 May from 09.00 – 19.30) and Thursday (12 May from 09.00 – 21.00) for those interested in this exciting opportunity. More details at http://caithness-business.co.uk/article.php?id=6688 and more information on Restore is at http://www.restore.co.uk/ There is also excellent coverage of the Archive project’s progress in the latest issue of “Energy North” which is distributed with all Scottish Provincial Press titles in the Highlands. http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/launch.aspx?eid=257bc72c-7644-44f9-8cd9-7584c33cc036

Tourism, Food and Drink:

Enabling activities:

  • The Public Local Inquiry into the proposed road improvement scheme at Berriedale Braes was held in Helmsdale in early April. Evidence was heard by the Inquiry Reporter, who will now consider all the submissions. It is expected that a decision will be announced early next year. https://www.dpea.scotland.gov.uk/CaseDetails.aspx?id=116958&T=0
  • It was great to see students from Wick High School enjoying further success at a UK-wide technology competition. This time teacher Chris Aitken and his team of female students were awarded first prize in PA Consulting’s Raspberry Pi Competition. According to sponsors PA Consulting Raspberry PI is “one of the most exciting innovations of recent years. This affordable, credit-card-sized computer aims to inspire the next generation of software and hardware engineers to develop their programming skills and take an active interest in innovating across many industries.” We were delighted to help Chris and “team Quanco” meet the costs of travel to the competition finals in London through support from CNSRP partner Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd. The team’s winning entry was a robot that can stream live video footage over the internet. More at https://twitter.com/quancobot
  • Fibre Broadband rollout continues throughout the area with services now available in Wick, Thurso, Halkirk, Lybster, Castletown, Thrumster, Watten, Reay, Bettyhill and Helmsdale.  A reminder too that access to new fibre services must be ordered from your broadband provider. The rollout programme for the area continues to be delivered by BT, and managed by CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
  • The learning opportunities for coming generations of the area workforce will be on show next weekend at North Highland College, which is running an “Engineering & Construction Taster Day” it its Engineering Technology & Energy Centre (ETEC) in Thurso. The open event will be from 10am til 2pm on Saturday 14th May.
  • Marine Scotland will be holding two events later this month in Caithness and Orkney to inform people about the new Pilot Marine Spatial Plan for the Pentland Firth & Orkney waters. The event in Caithness (being held jointly with CNSRP partner Highland Council) will be at Caithness Horizons, Thurso on Tuesday 24th May from 12-7.30pm, with a short presentation on the Plan at 6.30pm.

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:

  • CNSRP partner the NDA published its Strategy and Business Plan. Two elements of particular interest to local stakeholders were proposed changes to the area-based prioritisation of NDA socio-economic funding; socio-economic considerations in NDA and SLC contracts; and a proposed change to the site End-State Date (from 2030 to 2030-2033).   https://www.gov.uk/government/news/input-sought-on-draft-strategy-and-business-plan
  • In early April Cavendish Nuclear’s Simon Middlemas and I gave a presentation to Dounreay Trades Union Safety Reps on the subject of future employment prospects. As previously highlighted here I maintain figures on jobs being created in the economy and report on progress to CNSRP’s three groupings. Simon has carried out a review of wider jobs prospects associated with the CNSRP programme, and of likely decommissioning timescales. Our presentation therefore drew a picture of an area where economic gloom was not the long-term prospect: instead we highlighted that our main likely issues concerned potential skills gaps and labour shortages. We were able to show how the various elements of the CNSRP programme are helping tackle these issues. The response we received from attendees was very encouraging, with a number of specific and interested questions. We hope to continue making this presentation to a number of other groupings in the area.
  • Finally, congratulations to Gail Ross on gaining election to the Scottish Parliament to represent Caithness, Sutherland & Ross following yesterday’s vote. Gail, who is a Highland Councillor, and sits on the CNSRP Advisory Board, will be joined by seven successful list candidates for the Highlands and Islands.