Weekly update, 7th November

Energy & business services:
• The vessel Olympic Ares arrived in the Inner Sound of the Pentland Firth this week to install the first of the turbines for the MeyGen tidal energy project. As previously highlighted here the turbine support structures and ballast blocks were successfully installed during October, bringing welcome work to the area through Scrabster harbour and local companies. For updates on the project please see the twitter feed of Atlantis Resources Ltd at https://twitter.com/atlantisresplc
• The UK Government’s Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) this week announced its plans to hold a further round of “Contracts for Difference (CfD)”, which will offer generators of renewables technologies such as offshore wind and tidal energy greater certainty and stability of revenues to electricity generators by reducing their exposure to volatile wholesale prices, whilst protecting consumers from paying for higher support costs when electricity prices are high. The Beatrice Offshore Winfram Ltd already has a confirmed CfD, so the announcement will be of interest to Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd and Atlantis Resources Ltd. http://renews.biz/104850/uk-sets-290m-cfd-budget/

Enabling activities:
• Caithness Chamber of Commerce continues to make good progress with its “Developing the Young Workforce” initiative. The regional board for Caithness & Sutherland met this week via video links between Thurso, Dornoch and Alness, and heard encouraging updates from partners on key areas of focus such as work placements and business engagement.
• And on a similar topic Education Scotland announced today (Friday 11th) the results of its review carried out into careers information, advice and guidance services provided by CNSRP partner Skills Development Scotland (SDS) in the Highlands. The review gave an “outstanding/ sector leading” rating to the vast majority of the work being done by SDS in the Highland Council area, and is particularly pleasing as the two reviewers came to our area to sit-in on one of our CNSRP Delivery Group meetings, as well as holding a discussion with local stakeholders. Congratulations to SDS across the Highland area, and in particular to Alistair Ferrier and his team based in Thurso! You can read the SDS press statement at http://www.skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk/news-events/2016/november/top-marks-for-highland-careers-services/ and the full Education Scotland report at http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/Images/HighlandCIAGRev111116_tcm4-877103.pdf
• Good to hear that additional street cabinets have been added in both John O’Groats and Thrumster in Caithness, as progress continues with the rollout of superfast fibre broadband. As ever, the enhanced connectivity that this will bring requires potential users to order the service through an internet service provider. More information on the project is at http://www.hie.co.uk/regional-information/digital-highlands-and-islands/can-i-get-it.html

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 CNSRP Advisory Board met this week, and reviewed progress with the range of projects on the current programme of activities being taken forward. In my update to members I made particular mention of the recent progress with tidal energy in the Pentland Firth, offshore wind developments at Wick harbour, and the NDA Archive facility beside Wick John O’Groats airport. I also gave members an update on current thoughts on the role of CNSRP as comments and recommendations emerge from the work being done by Ekos consultants on the “Socio-economic Impacts of Dounreay Decommissioning”. Interim recommendations from the report will be discussed at a meeting of the CNSRP Executive Board.