Confidence in Scotland’s offshore windfarms such as the Beatrice project in the outer Moray Firth has been rocked by a UK Government decision to restrict financial support for the sector, according to objectors.
Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing has accused the Westminster government of being “hell-bent on ploughing billions of pounds” into nuclear power stations while knocking back support for renewable projects north of the border.
The £3billion Beatrice scheme and others off Fife and Angus were omitted last week left from a short-list for fast-track funding.
The so-called “contract for difference” regime is due to be operational next autumn. While four English offshore projects made the top 10, no Scottish projects featured.
UK Energy Minister Ed Davey said it would be a mistake to judge that as “somehow worrying to Scotland.”
He added that schemes which did not make the list could still apply for the existing publicly-funded Renewable Obligation subsidy scheme.
But Graham Lang of the campaign group Scotland Against Spin said no-one should be surprised that the UK Government was “pulling back from extra incentives for offshore schemes in Scotland.”
He claimed that recent decisions to delay the Aberdeen Bay offshore turbine testing facility and abandon the huge Argyll Array demonstrated that offshore wind in Scotland faced massive problems in terms of technology and environmental impacts.
He argued that offshore wind development was already six years behind schedule and that investors were now hesitant “despite a 200% subsidy from UK consumers for every megawatt of electricity generated by offshore wind.”
Mr Lang told the Northern Times: “The wind industry is hooked on public subsidy. Not a single turbine in Scotland would have gone up without it and, like vulture chicks, wind developers only ever cry for more.
“Offshore wind is a dead duck in Scotland and it’s time Alex Salmond manned up, stopped blaming Westminster and faced reality. No energy policy is sustainable if it is unaffordable.”
Highland councillors decided in June not to oppose the £3billion Beatrice project, which is a joint venture between SSE Renewables and Repsol Nuevas Energias UK. Moray Council had previously approved it “in principle”.
A final decision on the development is expected from the Scottish Government.
If approved, around 277 turbines up to 613ft (187m) tall would be built in the Outer Moray Firth, injecting an estimated £125million into the Highland economy and promising almost 1,000 jobs.
The partners claim the development would provide enough electricity to power almost 800,000 homes.
In March, Highland councillors backed plans to build what has been described as the world’s largest offshore windfarm, comprising 339 turbines across three sites 13 miles off the Caithness coast.
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