The chances of successful large-scale windfarm development on the Islands took a step forward yesterday (Wednesday June 6) with a positive announcement from the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Scotland Office Minister Lord Duncan welcomed the department’s “current intention that wind projects on the remote islands of Scotland that directly benefit local communities will be eligible for the next Pot 2 auction.”

This is delivering on a Conservative Party manifesto commitment to ”support development of wind projects in the remote islands of Scotland, where they directly benefit local communities.”

Lord Duncan said: “The UK Government is clear that we want to support remote island wind projects, and this announcement is confirmation that we are delivering on that commitment.

“Wind projects in the remote islands of Scotland have the potential to not only ensure an affordable energy supply for businesses and consumers, they also support economic growth and highly skilled jobs in communities.

“Clean growth is at the heart of the UK Government’s modern Industrial Strategy, and we know that remote island wind cuts emissions and contributes to the UK’s position as a world leader in renewable generation. This is an important step forward for Scottish remote island wind.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has welcomed this official confirmation that Remote Island Wind projects can compete in the upcoming Contracts for Difference (CfDs) auction.

Following a consultation earlier this year - to which Mr MacNeil responded - the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced this week that they intend to proceed to legislate to differentiate Remote Island Wind from other onshore wind projects to enable them to compete for a CfD in Pot 2. This is subject to Parliamentary approval.

Mr MacNeil said: “This announcement was expected but is very welcome news.  It is a positive step that the UK Government has listened to the large number of respondents to the consultation, from across the industry and from groups and individuals in the islands, who made the case for Remote Island Wind to be considered differently from other onshore wind projects.”

Last September Lord Duncan had a series of meetings across Lewis and Harris aimed at building links between the Western Isles and those involved in organising the UK exit from the European Union. At the time the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State also pledged that the Conservative Government was committed to its 2017 Election Manifesto promise to bring about some form of interconnection with the national electricity grid, with a target of 2019 for getting proposals organised.

Lord Duncan said then that it was not a question of whether should be a link, it was a question of finding the best way to develop it. “It’s a manifesto commitment, it is going to happen, we will be connecting the islands up, it’s a question of which sequence, of who is first, which type of interconnector.”

The latest proposals say that aim is to “classify remote island wind as a distinct sub-class of generating stations: under this option a separate administrative strike price would be set for Remote Island Wind projects, and future Contract For Difference allocation frameworks would specify that such projects would be eligible to compete as a Pot 2 technology.”

The department says this is “the preferred option as it achieves the government's objectives and has the potential to generate net benefits to the electricity system.”

Lord Duncan was elected to the European Parliament in 2014, and resigned upon his appointment to the House of Lords. In 1999 he became the Deputy Chief Executive, and Secretary for the Scottish Fishermen's Federation. From 2004-2005 he acted as the Head of Policy & Communication for the Scottish Refugee Council. Before becoming an MEP, Duncan worked as Head of the EU Office for the Scottish Parliament, a position he held between 2005 and 2011, at which time he was appointed Clerk to the Parliament's European Committee and EU Advisor to the Parliament.

All of the detail of this announcement can be found here:

(This report has been amended since first publication to include comments by Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil)