Ofgem leaves door open for revised Western Isles energy link plan

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The four townships campaigning for the right to develop renewables on their common grazings land have responded to energy regulator Ofgem’s decision not to give the go-ahead for the proposed subsea Western Isles Interconnector.

The undersea cable was proposed as a way of connecting planned new wind farms on the islands with the National Grid.

In a joint statement issued last week, Melbost Branahuie, Sandwick North, Sandwick East and Aignish said the decision was inevitable given the unsuccessful bid by Lewis Wind Power to win a Contracts for Difference (CfD) in the recent subsidy auction.

‘However, the good news is that Ofgem has said it will consider alternatives if they are put forward,’ continued the statement.

‘We therefore earnestly appeal to the Scottish Government and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to consider supporting a new Plan B that has the development of community-owned renewables at its centre. This Plan B should include an upgrade of the cable from Skye and have it reserved for community turbines only.

‘It should also include faster progress towards replacing the import of carbon fuels on the islands with renewable energy that can be produced locally from community-owned renewables, such as the council’s own excellent proposals to replace the LNG gas used in the town with hydrogen gas made locally.’

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has also welcomed the continued commitment from Ofgem.

The local authority said it was the perceived risk of consumers paying for an underutilised link that has prevented Ofgem giving the go ahead for the massive cable.

The proposal from SSEN for a 600MW transmission link was based on the two largest planned projects, Stornoway and Uisenis Wind Farms, securing subsidies in the recent auction (Contracts for Difference). Only the Uisenis project was successful.

Comhairle Leader Roddie Mackay said: ‘While developments have not taken place as we would have wished there is still a way ahead for the 600mw cable which we believe is the best option for the renewables industry in the Western Isles.

‘We will continue to engage with developers, SSEN, Ofgem and the UK and Scottish Governments to bring that about.’

Highlands and islands MSP Donald Cameron, who wrote to the energy regulator earlier in the year, said: ‘This clearly shows that, as I argued in August, a 600MW interconnector for the Western Isles is still to play for.

‘I look forward to continuing my work with local groups to ensure Ofgem fully understands how important this is for the future of our communities.

‘The door is open and it is imperative that we get behind a renewed proposal that secures approval for a 600MW transmission link.’