Windfarm developers’ hopes of receiving a subsidy for Western Isles turbine schemes have taken a step forward.
The UK government has abolished all subsidies for onshore wind farms but said it may make an exception for the Scottish islands.
Energy Minister Richard Harrington gave strong backing for a proposed special islands’ subsidy scheme during a meeting with MP Angus MacNeil.
Mr MacNeil said the minister told him he was “committed” to progressing with a financial incentive for turbine schemes in the Hebrides and Northern Isles.
Without the subsidies it seems highly likely developers will abandon plans for island windfarms with the knock-on effect of scrapping a proposed subsea cable to export electricity to the mainland.
Without the interconnector to the mainland no turbine – either corporately or community owned would be built.
State aid clearance from the European Commission would be required to sanction an island wind subsidy category.
If the green light is received from the EU, the next stage would be to get legislation through the House of Commons.
However, given the volume of Brexit work this might have timetabling issues.
The upshot means bids for island windfarm subsidies could take place in the first quarter of 2019, about 18 months away.
Mr MacNeil said: “This should give many room for optimism. We have money committed and a timetable in place, we have measuring sticks on this path from this September to the auctions taking place
“Many people will wonder about the community schemes and various schemes competing against each other but we aren’t really at that stage yet because of the hurdles we have to get through to get to that point.
“However, there is an awareness of the various community offers that there are available for communities across island groups which the minister himself raised.”
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