Scotland’s fledgling renewables industry will not be scuppered by increased charges to connect to the national grid, UK energy minister Malcolm Wicks pledged yesterday.
Mr Wicks, who was in Stirlingshire to open a biomass energy plant, insisted he would not let high connection charges stand in the way of building green energy projects in remote places.
Wind is stronger in the north of Scotland than in most of the UK, particularly in Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles, and the sources of wave and tidal energy are also better.
Jim Mather, Scottish energy minister, yesterday welcomed Mr Wicks’ comments, but called for a “fundamental reform” of the system.
Ofgem initially said it was “minded” to approve a new charging system proposed by power companies that would increase costs depending on how far generators were from population centres. But it then delayed a decision from last autumn to spring this year amid protests from Scotland.
Industry body Scottish Renewables has warned the extra costs would seriously affect the number of wind farms and other green energy schemes built.
Mr Wicks said it was primarily a matter for Ofgem, but added: “I am very sensitive about grid connections and making sensible decisions so that we can really see the huge renewable resource that we have in Britain and here in Scotland utilised.
“I’ve said as a UK minister that we will use the powers we have as ministers to make sure that these charges are sensible.”
Energy firms made the proposal to Ofgem to effectively charge more for generators in remote areas to connect to the grid because of the increased electricity losses they suffer during transmission.
Mr Wicks was visiting the Norbord panel board mak
ing plant in Cowie near Stirling to open its biomass plant. Its fuel comes from bark and wood residue from the manufacturing process, with none bought from outside sources.
Mr Mather said he welcomed Mr Wicks’ support “for a better charging regime for Scotland’s islands”.
“However, we believe the current transmission access and charging regime requires much more fundamental change as it acts against the development of the renewable energy industry in Scotland,” he said.
A spokesman for Ofgem said the government had given itself the power to cap transmission charges “but they haven’t used them yet”.
Jason Ormiston, of Scottish Renewables, said Mr Wicks appeared to be sympathetic to their concerns.
“I genuinely think he is behind the industry. He will know in terms of the renewable energy target, it cannot be achieved without a big contribution from Scotland,” he said.
By Ian Johnston
14 February 2008
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