Weekly update, 13th March 2017

Energy & business services:
• Delighted to see this week’s news that Caithness firm GMR Henderson has been awarded work on the construction programme for the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm project’s Operations & Maintenance base in Wick. The company, whose base is only about 100 metres away from the O&M site on the Wick harbourfront, will support the initial demolition and preparatory works. http://sse.com/newsandviews/allarticles/2017/03/gmr-henderson-to-join-thomas-telford-renovation/
• The UK government’s BEIS has this week published a series of documents paving the way for the second Contract for Difference (CfD) auction kicking off on 3 April. These include the allocation framework, standard terms and conditions and series of statutory notices for projects delivering in 2021-22 and 2022-23. CfDs will be allocated to the cheapest projects first, regardless of the delivery year. The strike price for offshore wind is £105/MWh in the first delivery period and £100 in the second. Wave is £310/300 and tidal is £300/295. As previously highlighted here, a CfD is a contract between a low carbon electricity generator and the Low Carbon Contracts Company (LCCC), a UK government-owned company, introduced as part of the now implemented Electricity Market Reform (EMR) programme A generator party to a CfD is paid the difference between the ‘strike price’ – a price for electricity reflecting the cost of investing in a particular low carbon technology – and the ‘reference price’– a measure of the average market price for electricity in the GB market. This next round of CfD will be of significant interest to renewable energy companies seeking to progress projects in the north. Further information at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/second-cfd-allocation-round-statutory-notices

Tourism, Food & Drink:

• Ekos Consultants will be facilitating a drop-in event on Monday 20th March from 2pm to 7pm at the Seaview Hotel, John O’Groats. The event is part of the company’s work on behalf of CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to develop an economic and community plan for John O’ Groats. Further information from mhairi.donaghy@ekos.co.uk
• The tourism value of the North Coast 500 has been the focus of media coverage this week, with the North Coast 500 company staging a reception – sponsored by Gail Ross MSP – in the Scottish Parliament. The reception highlighted a recently-completed survey of tourism businesses, which projected growth in employment prospects for the north. http://www.scotsman.com/regions/inverness-highlands-islands/jobs-boost-on-north-coast-500-scotland-s-route-66-1-4392350
• On a similar topic local tourism businesses in Caithness will be coming together on 29th March in Thurso. The “Caithness Tourism Gathering 2017” is being held under the auspices of the Caithness & Sutherland Visitor Attractions Group and Venture North, and will provide a forum for businesses to meet and discuss current issues and opportunities. For more information and to book a place, please contact info@casvag.co.uk
• Scottish Government’s Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop MSP announced this week that the “themed years” approach to tourism would be extended. This year is designated as the Year of History, Heritage & Archaeology, and the new plans highlight that the Year of Scotland’s Coast and Waters will be celebrated in 2020 while the focus in 2022 will be the Year of Scotland’s Stories, all being led by VisitScotland. http://news.gov.scot/news/scotlands-special-themed-years-unveiled

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’s Delivery Group met this week to further refine the shape of our future programme of activity, and to consider jobs targets for the next three years til March 2020. Over the coming three years we propose to focus on key long-term employment opportunities in offshore wind, tidal, oil & gas, nuclear services, business services and the North Coast 500, and to develop an underpinning Skills Investment Plan for the area to ensure our opportunities can be effectively supported now and into the future.
• A reminder that tonight (Thursday 17th) Linda Ross, a PhD candidate at UHI Centre for History, will be giving a public talk on her research on the social and architectural impacts of Dounreay over its history. The talk (“Housing the Atomics”) is in Caithness Horizons at 7.30pm, but contact the venue (01847 896508) to book a seat! I also had the opportunity today to speak to another PhD candidate carrying out research work on Dounreay-related subjects. Rika Hirose Haga is from Japan, and is part of the School of Geography and Geosciences at the University of St Andrews. Her research project is “Exploring the intergenerational impacts of nuclear decommissioning operations” covers a number of issues. I was pleased to be able to highlight the important work going on at Dounreay, both in terms of the decommissioning operation itself, but also in terms of the drive to ensure sustainable economic growth for the area. It was interesting to discuss the importance of nuclear decommissioning as a distinct industry, and the extent to which the skills and knowledge being applied to the decommissioning programme at Dounreay can help shape the future value attached to this work.