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Green ambitions come at a high price

The news that SSE are about to submit their plans to Ofgem for a back-up power station for Shetland, and it’s timing, is a surprising twist in the tale of the solution to Shetland’s energy needs.

Surely these plans and the cost of them should have been included in the “consultation” about the inter-connector.

The capital expenditure on the back-up power supply is likely to be similar to that associated with keeping a power plant in Lerwick to meet Shetland’s energy needs.

There will be less fuel burned when the link is operational but the consumers now face paying for the wind farm, the link and the back-up solution. Does that justify a capital expenditure of well over £1 billion when a replacement power station for Shetland like the gas fired proposal would have come in with a cost of around £100 million and no back-up required?

Ofgem’s “green” ambitions come with a very high price tag and are highly likely to increase energy poverty.

From the evidence in their “consultation” justification, Ofgem appeared to be determined to approve the interconnector, regardless of cost, in pursuit of what they saw as green energy and therefore a must have.

Their deliberate concealment of the cost benefit analysis figures and the fact that no plans for a back-up power supply or its potential cost were available during the consultation show just how flawed the decision making process was.

The speed with which the construction has got under way since the cable approval would indicate that SSE influenced Ofgem’s hurried and ill conceived decision.

On local radio this week an SSE representative was keen to reassure local residents that HVDC cables were tried, tested and very reliable.

He seemingly was unaware of extensive problems with the Western Link, currently the subject of an Ofgem inquiry into its failings. He also chose to ignore a major cable failure in the Western Isles last week, which will take months, and probably millions of pounds, to repair. There are many other examples of problems with subsea cables.

It is a sad fact that the gas fired power station and LNG terminal proposal would have been far less damaging to the Shetland environment and much better value for consumers and Shetland residents.

As the Shetland winter sets in and the carnage in the hills continues, SSE will no doubt find difficulties and costs escalating and may well regret their enthusiasm for the ill-starred Viking Energy wind farm, as will consumers who will have to foot the bill.

Frank Hay
Sustainable Shetland