Island leaders have called on the UK Government to connect their remote renewable energy projects to the national grid to harness up to £725 million of economic benefits and create 2,000 jobs.
Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing and the leaders of Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland councils have written to UK energy secretary Amber Rudd seeking progress on European Union (EU) permissions to connect to the grid.
It follows a report by energy consultants Baringa, commissioned by the Scottish Government, which found the island economies could benefit from up to £725 million over the next 25 years from renewables projects.
Up to 2,000 jobs could be created in the peak development phase across the islands, Baringa said.
The Western Isles and Orkney have very limited connections with the mainland and Shetland is completely isolated from the GB grid.
Novel technologies designed to overcome these limitations have now been exhausted, so further deployment is dependent on grid connection, Baringa said.
Mr Ewing said: “This report confirms the potential of the vast renewable resources of our islands.
“They are arguably the best places in Europe to deliver renewable energy. The wind speeds are the strongest and they have the best potential for wave and tidal energy in the future.
“The potential considerable economic and employment benefits from renewables means it is vital for the UK Government to deliver on their commitment to the islands.
“The council leaders and I have, therefore, written today to the Secretary of State Amber Rudd MP.
“We are urging her department to progress the necessary EU permissions immediately and to bring forward a viable package of support in the coming weeks that supports the vital grid connections to the three island groups.
“With high levels of fuel poverty in the islands it is necessary to deliver the unleashed potential of island renewables which will provide huge quantities of electricity, but also provide enormous benefits to the people on the islands which could be used to help combat the problems of fuel poverty and rural deprivation.”
Lang Banks, WWF Scotland director, said: “This study makes clear that in addition to helping cut climate emissions, renewables also have the ability to generate multiple economic benefits for Scotland’s islands.
“However, if we are to secure these benefits we need each of the political parties to prioritise renewables and commit to ensuring Scotland becomes the EU’s first fully renewable electricity nation by 2030.”