Senior Government officials have relayed concerns raised by Isles MP Angus MacNeil to the energy regulator Ofgem ahead of the final decision on the Western Isles interconnector.
Mr MacNeil is calling on Ofgem to do what is best for the environment, the consumer and the economy and approve the Needs Case for the construction of a 600MW link to the islands.
And Highlands and Islands MSP, Donald Cameron, has also written to the Chief Executive of Ofgem, Dermot Nolan, in a final push to encourage support for a 600Mw transmission link between Lewis and mainland Scotland.
This comes after Ofgem said they were minded to favour a 450mw option despite revealing in a letter to Mr MacNeil that the 600mw option would cost the consumer just 4p extra per year.
Mr MacNeil said: “The UK Government have set an ambitious target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to almost zero by 2050 and releasing the full renewables potential of the Hebrides by constructing an adequate link will help towards that aim.
“I raised this with Business Secretary Greg Clark MP in Parliament recently who said he would ensure this was brought up with Ofgem. This week I received a letter from the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, Chris Skidmore MP to confirm that this had been done. I hope Ofgem will listen and make the right decision later this summer.”
The letter from Mr Skidmore stated: “Clearly any decision on the Western Isles transmission link is important to you and your community and senior officials in my Department have made Ofgem fully aware of your concerns.”
Mr MacNeil has campaigned for the 600mw option to be taken forward for many years as have colleagues in the Scottish Government and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. He has repeatedly raised this directly with Ofgem and the UK Government.
Ofgem are due to make a final decision on the proposal in mid-2019, and announced its provisional opinion on both the Western Isles proposal and the Shetland proposal in March this year. In this original assessment, Ofgem stated that it was “minded to reject SSEN’s separate proposal to build a 600MW transmission link to connect the Western Isles to the mainland based on two Lewis Wind Power wind farm projects being awarded subsidies through the CfD auction because of the risk of consumers paying for a significantly underutilised link”. However since then, community leaders, renewable energy stakeholders, and SSEN have responded to the energy regulator, asking it to see the bigger picture, and to recognise the potential extra capacity and socio-economic benefits that a 600Mw link could offer the Western Isles.
In his letter to the Chief Executive of Ofgem, Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has said: “I strongly support this option [a 600Mw link], and I hope that, even in these final few days or weeks before Ofgem comes to a final decision, that it sees the significant benefit that such a link could have for the Highlands and Islands, and in particular the Western Isles.
“I believe that, done right, the economic benefit to local communities in the Western Isles could be significant and ground breaking, particularly given the serious issue of regional depopulation which continues to be an issue as a result of fewer job opportunities, and less economic activity compared to more urban parts of Scotland.”
And he added: “This is make or break for the Western Isles. A 600Mw transmission link would not only create stable, skilled jobs in the area, but the economic impact could stimulate the wider economy of the islands. The Scottish Conservatives’ 2017 manifesto contained a cast-iron commitment to remote island wind so we are as keen as anyone to see this happen. I hope Ofgem see the bigger picture, and deliver some positive news when it makes its final decision in the next few weeks.”