The bitter spat over renewable energy developments in the Western Isles took a new turn last night (Thursday April 13) as Executive Director of Point and Sandwick Power, Calum Macdonald, hit back at comments from council leader Angus Campbell of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.
“Mr Campbell makes the strange claim that Point and Sandwick Power was not invited to the meeting with the Secretary of State, Greg Clark, on Monday.
“He is misinformed. In fact, we were in receipt of an official invitation from the Secretary of State’s office and did not need an invite from the Council.
“Perhaps Mr Campbell can explain why the Council did not want any representatives of the local community energy sector at the meeting, despite the local branch of Community Energy Scotland making repeated requests to the Council to be included.
“Can Mr Campbell explain why this was so?
“Sadly this speaks volumes for the begrudging attitude of the Council leadership to the community energy sector, despite the fact that local community wind farms are already investing £2 million a year from the Butt to Barra, twice the community benefit that is being promised from the large Stornoway Wind Farm.
“During the meeting, the Secretary of State made repeated references to the importance of the community sector in building the case for the interconnector.
“I therefore repeat my appeal to the new Council leader, whoever he or she may be, not to repeat Mr Campbell’s mistakes but to work closely with the local community energy sector to deliver an improved case and to hopefully finally win the argument for the inter-connector.”
Earlier Councillor Campbell had said: “It is disappointing that one community energy company seems solely interested in their own development at the expense of other renewable energy developments in the Western Isles.
“The Comhairle has been and continues to work to ensure that communities throughout the Western Isles can benefit from the massive renewables potential of these islands.
“The Comhairle believes it is important for the community to be able to share in the ownership of large-scale renewables, but that an appropriate balance has to be achieved between risk and reward.
“To mitigate risk, developers such as Lewis Wind Power, presently carry all the pre-implementation costs on the Lewis projects – all the grid under-writing costs and the posting of securities fall on the developer.
“The Comhairle and the community can therefore choose to enter the projects when a Contract for Difference has been achieved, when the grid has been put in place and after the projects have been constructed.
“This is an appropriate approach to risk that will save the Comhairle and the community literally millions of pounds, while passing the critical risks to the private sector.
“As a joint 50 / 50 investor the community would be required to undertake all the pre-implementation risk. This would have cost the Comhairle millions of pounds to date – money that would be lost if the projects do not emerge.
“If the choice had been to use our finances in that way over the past number of years, then that would not have been available to Comhairle to support critical services such as our schools, care homes and other essential services.
"The Comhairle does, however, continue to engage with developers and others to seek to maximise the economic benefit from the large-scale wind energy projects.
"In addition to traditional community benefits this includes commitments to significant local content to ensure that local businesses can share in the economic spin-offs.”