Millions of pounds from renewable energy developments could be lost to the Western Isles due to doubts over plans to instal a vital subsea cable to export the electricity.
Western Isles Council leader Angus Campbell warned yesterday that power giant SSE risks missing the window to submit a revised case for the cable to regulator Ofgem.
The delay means an arrangement between SSE and Swiss-owned submarine cable contractor ABB could fall.
Mr Campbell believes this would lead developers planning wind and wave schemes on the islands to go elsewhere, taking jobs and economic benefits with them.
Both Mr Campbell and Ofgem have asked SSE’s grid subsidiary SHE Transmission for an urgent update on its plans.
He said: “If we don’t get the needs case that SHE Transmission have to put into Ofgem for the final decision by the end of June we will lose our place in the line for this project.
“Developers that have provisionally put money into renewables projects here can’t afford to hang around for another three years. They will pack up.”
SSE says it is holding back for the findings of a study – expected by today – on tackling excessive transmission charges for exporting power from the Scottish islands. The potential charges means a typical 100MW windfarm on Lewis would have to fork out £7million a year compared with £1million for the same scheme on Skye or around £100,000 in southern England.
Mr Campbell added: “In any other case the needs case just goes in. The transmission charges are up to Ofgem.”
Developers recently fulfilled a deal to underwrite one third of the cost of the 450MW cable in advance.
An Ofgem spokesman said: “The owner of the transmission network, SHE Transmission, is responsible for making the case for investment projects such as the Western Isles.
“We expect SHE Transmission to come to us with such investment cases at the appropriate time. We also expect SHE Transmission to continue to engage effectively with stakeholders, including generation developers seeking to invest on the Western Isles.”
SSE’s director of transmission David Gardner told Ofgem the company was concerned about the affordability of the Western Isles project.
SSE was not convinced of a “demonstrable user need for the project” and believed it was “uneconomic” based on current policy and could only be progressed following a clear bankable government policy decision on affordability.