Downgrade on island interconnector ‘raises questions’ on denied access, trade body says

Hannah Smith, senior policy manager for Scottish Renewables.
Hannah Smith, senior policy manager for Scottish Renewables.

The decision by energy regulator Ofgem to approve a smaller interconnector to the Western Isles than the Shetland Isles has been criticised by a renewable energy trade body.

Hannah Smith, senior policy manager for Scottish Renewables, said today that the decision “raises questions” about whether island communities will be “denied access” to low cost renewable energy.

The initial application requested that the Western Isles be granted a 600MW interconnector.

Ofgem announced this morning that it “would approve” a resubmitted proposal for a 450 megawatt (MW) transmission link to the Western Isles based on two Lewis wind power projects being successfully awarded a Contract for Difference (CfD) in this year’s auction round.

But the energy regulator also announced today that it would grant a 600MW cable connection to the Shetland Isles.

Ms Smith said: “Scotland’s remote islands have some of the best renewable energy resource in the world.

“We welcome Ofgem’s minded-to position on the Shetland interconnector – the lack of which has left promising projects effectively locked out of the energy market for want of a network connection.

“The decision to approve a smaller connection to the Western Isles – which is in an almost-identical situation – does, however, raise questions about whether consumers now and in the future will be denied access to the islands’ potential for low-cost renewable generation.

“Renewable energy development is about delivering environmental, social and economic benefits, so the numbers on this decision are important.”

Ofgem rejected the 600MW interconnector on the basis that only two renewable energy projects are competing in the auction round.

The regulator confirmed it would consider the case for a 600MW transmission link to the Western Isles “if consumers were more appropriately protected from the additional costs of funding a potentially significantly oversized link”.

Ms Smith added: “We would urge Ofgem to consider the potential for increased future green energy generation – and the benefits that cheap, clean energy will deliver for consumers – when making a final decision on the Western Isles link and urge all stakeholders to make their voices heard in the consultation process which is now underway.”