Ofgem ‘putting all its eggs in one basket’ on interconnector, warns councillor

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A senior councillor has criticised Comhairle nan Eilean Siar for its handling of the development of renewables in the Western Isles.

Energy regulator Ofgem yesterday announced it would reject a proposal by Scottish and Southern Energy Networks (SSEN) to build a 600 megawatt (MW) to connect the Western Isles to mainland Scotland.

Angus McCormack, the member for Steornabhagh A Deas and councillor for 16 years today criticised the decision to downgrade the interconnector to 450MW.

He described the decision by Ofgem as “putting all its eggs in one basket”.

Mr McCormick said: “I’m really disappointed in the result, in what Ofgem is suggesting, but my concern is that over the years the Comhairle has put all its eggs in one basket, namely Lewis Wind Power, and it has ignored the potential for building up a sizeable community renewable sector in these islands as part of this deal.

“That is something that I have been pursuing for quite some time within the council.

“I’ve had no support for it, because it would have meant that, some considerable years ago, the council would have had to set aside a considerable sum of money – I’m talking about between half and a million pounds – and a small unit within the council to advise communities and crofters on how to take forward the acquisition of planning permission and access to the grid.

“Had we done that, over the years, we would now have a bank of applications ready to support the coming of the interconnector and these community wind farms would play a significant role in being transformational for our islands in the way that Lewis Wind Power will never be.”

Mr McCormack  has long involvement with community renewables projects on the Western Isles and is the honorary president of Point and Sandwick Trust, who operate the UK’s largest community-owned wind farm at Beinn Ghrideag.

He added: “I’m puzzled, shall we say, at the content of the Ofgem statement.

“It would appear that Ofgem believes there is nobody else in the race but Lewis Wind Power.“

“They do not appear to mention Forsa, nor do they mention anything at all about community wind farms.

“I would have thought that Ofgem would be familiar with all of these issues and would take them into account in their argument.

“They also in their statement appear to be linking the CfD acquisition purely and simply to Lewis Wind Power as if no other could acquire such support.

“I don’t understand that and I wonder how on earth they have arrived at the position they are currently in.”