The Executive Director of Point and Sandwick Power, Calum MacDonald, has called for greatly increased community involvement in the proposed Lewis Windpower projects following the visit by the UK Secretary of State for Business and Energy, Greg Clark MP to Stornoway on Monday 10th April.
Mr MacDonald, the former MP for the Western Isles, attended the Scottish Islands Renewable Delivery Forum meeting at the Caberfeidh Hotel at the personal invitation of the Secretary of State, and said afterwards: “Right from the start of the meeting, Greg Clark made clear that his primary interest was the degree of community involvement, ownership and benefit in the three island projects and that maximising the community role was the best hope, indeed the only hope, of getting any of the inter-connector projects funded.
“Unfortunately, this leaves the Western Isles at an immediate disadvantage as we have the weakest community involvement of all three projects as currently proposed. Orkney Council were able to make good use in their presentation of a study they had commissioned showing that community-owned projects provided 14 to 18 times more economic benefit than conventional corporate schemes. Shetland Council were able to point to the guaranteed 50% community ownership of the huge Viking Energy Scheme.
“The Western Isles Council, however, could only point to a vague hope to buy 20 to 30% of the two big Lewis Windpower schemes, but with no guarantees, no detailed commercial agreement and no idea of how to fund this purchase. In fact, the most recent funding solution put forward by the Stornoway Trust would provide just 8% for the community, not 30%, and certainly not the 50% of Shetland.
“It is abundantly clear to me from the Secretary of State’s repeated comments during the meeting on Monday that this community stake must be dramatically increased if there is to be any hope of persuading the Government to fund the new inter-connector.
“The decision last year to end all subsidy for onshore wind farm has completely changed the case for the inter-connectors. The Scottish Government has also made clear in its new Energy Strategy that it is not stepping into the gap to provide its own renewable subsidies in Scotland.
“We have to come up with new arguments and the Secretary of State gave a very clear steer at the meeting when he said that most distinctive and most interesting aspect of the islands scene was the success of community-owned energy.
“Both the Council and Lewis Windpower must take the hint and quickly revise their plans. Community ownership and control has to be at the front and centre of the inter-connector case.
“That is why I am calling on the new Council which is to be elected in May to immediately sit down with Lewis Windpower and to re-engineer their project so that the community stake is increased to at least 50% in line with Shetland, guaranteed by legal agreements which cannot be reneged on in the future. There will be a very short window of opportunity before the Government makes its final decision and we must do everything to make our case as attractive and compelling as possible.”