Representatives of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar met with OFGEM officials today (Thursday Aprill 11) as part of a ‘Final Needs Case’ consultation on a new interconnector to the Western Isles.
OFGEM has stated that they are ‘minded’ to recommend a 450MW cable whilst the Comhairle, developers and SSE have all made the case for a 600MW cable which would offer more capacity for exporting electricity from renewable energy schemes in the Islands.
The Comhairle outlined a robust case to OFGEM including projected figures of the amount of energy likely to be produced through renewable schemes in the next few years. OFGEM are also meeting with Developers during the consultation.
Councillor Roddie Mackay, Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said: “There are three windfarm schemes already consented and contracted - LWP Stornoway Wind Farm, Uisenis, and the FORSA Druim Leathann Windfarm.
"However, there is every indication of further schemes currently in the pipeline which will produce a substantial amount of electricity. We presented evidence to OFGEM of a demonstrable need for 530MW which, without reference to future needs, is sufficient to warrant a 600MW interconnector.
"The cost difference of installing a larger cable is in the region of £27m or 4.5% of the costs but if it is done at a later stage it would cost substantially more. Our estimates are that a new supplementary 150MW cable would cost around £270m so it is in the best interests of consumers to ‘future proof’ the means of exporting electricity from the Islands and install the bigger cable.”
The Comhairle also highlighted the risks of installing an undersized cable including the end of the Community Owned Energy Sector, the loss of Offshore wind potential in Europe’s area of best resource and the impact on the auction competitiveness of the LWP and FORSA schemes which would be more economic on a 600MW cable.
Mr Mackay added: “The Comhairle has been committed to renewable energy schemes in the Islands and has supported community projects through Community Energy Scotland. The Comhairle has arranged a meeting with OFGEM with representatives from the community projects currently in the system as well as our partners at Community Energy Scotland. I am confident that the Comhairle will wish to continue that support but there must be a way to market for the electricity produced otherwise they will simply not go ahead. The Comhairle calls on OFGEM to recognise the robust case that has been made and to recommend the larger cable. We believe that the additional evidence presented to OFGEM today enables them to keep the 600MW option on the table.”