The chairman of local campaign group Sustainable Shetland, Frank Hay, has called SSE’s £580 million investment decision in the controversial Viking Energy wind farm a “cynical attempt” to undermine the ongoing consultation process into the proposed interconnector transmission link.
Meanwhile, central mainland councillor Moraig Lyall said that she remained strongly opposed to the Viking project, a view she had made clear during her election campaign.
She said she had not “fully appreciated” until she was elected in November last year “the breadth of support that the project has within the council and that the opportunities for doing anything to prevent it going ahead were all but gone”.
Energy regulator Ofgem’s consultation into the final needs case of the Shetland transmission project closes on Thursday, 18 June.
Hay said: “This is a nicely timed announcement from SSE the day before the transmission link consultation deadline.
“Obviously a cynical attempt by SSE to convince Ofgem that they should approve the inter-connector and that the ghastly Viking Energy project should go ahead.”
Hay continued saying that the views of many local residents who will directly be affected by the planned wind farm have been systematically ignored over the years.
“We note that this decision has been announced before all the necessary planning consents have been achieved but that will probably be a formality as the SIC continues to look kindly on its former partner’s applications,” he said.
“Clearly there has been political support behind all of this from the start. Many local residents do not share their enthusiasm.”
Lyall added: “I believed then [during her election campaign] and still believe now that it will turn the heartland of our islands into an industrial zone dominated both in sight and sound by a forest of mechanical giants.
“This announcement today confirms that the tranquil landscape which is appreciated by so many, residents and visitors alike, will be changed forever.
“What is unlikely to change due to this announcement though, despite the huge quantities of power to be generated, is the size of the energy bills faced by the people of Shetland which are currently unaffordable for a good proportion of our community.
“I feel sad that so many seem to think that ruining the landscape is our only option to maintain economic prosperity. This decision is not being taken by SSE to benefit the people of Shetland but to satisfy the thirst for ‘green’ energy on the mainland and to swell their profits.”
Hay meanwhile reminded Ofgem of its core role of protecting the interests of existing and future consumers and promoting value for money.
“If the Ofgem consultation on the transmission link is a genuine one then the alternative solution of a gas fired power station to meet Shetland’s energy needs must be considered fully,” he said.
“If Ofgem is truly looking after consumers interests it must surely question the expenditure of £1 billion plus on an energy solution for Shetland, ultimately paid for by consumers.
“Why develop wind farms hundreds of miles from energy demand when grid restrictions make substantial constraint payments necessary on a regular basis?
“We will await the result of the transmission link consultation and hope that all the issues are properly considered. We continue to hope that, eventually, reason will prevail and that the Viking Energy wind farm will not come to fruition.”
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