The Scottish Islands could make a “significant contribution” to the UK's 2020 renewable energy targets, according to a joint report by the UK and Scottish Governments.
The research considers the evidence base for developing renewables projects on the Scottish Islands.
And the 'Scottish Islands Renewables Project' report shows that while there are significant potential benefits to developing renewables on the Scottish Islands, there are also considerable costs that need to be overcome.
Key conclusions of today's publication include:
* Renewable generation, including onshore wind, wave and tidal, on the Scottish Islands could make a significant contribution to the UK’s 2020 renewables targets.
* The cost of deploying renewables is higher than comparable projects on the mainland, due to the expensive transmission links that would be required.
The work has been guided and assisted by a Steering Group, with representatives from the island communities, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the transmission companies.
Energy Secretary Ed Davey said: “The Government is keen to unlock the potential for the development for renewable energy on the Scottish Islands, but it’s vital that projects represent value for money for the consumer.
“The report being published marks a considerable step in progress towards making decisions about supporting renewables investment on the Scottish Islands.
“I am grateful to the renewables industry, communities in the Islands, and the Scottish Government - who have all participated so enthusiastically in this research.”
Fergus Ewing, the Minister for Energy Enterprise and Tourism said: “This report is a huge step forward to understanding some of the challenges facing renewables developers in each of the main Scottish island groups.
“Scotland’s islands are rich in renewable energy resources, and this independent report makes absolutely clear that they can make a cost-effective contribution to 2020 renewables and decarbonisation targets if issues around grid access and high transmission charging can be addressed.
“The report will now help the UK and SG to assess the range of possible options for addressing the challenges facing island renewable developers.
“Publication today marks the end of the first phase of the intergovernmental work to understand the barriers to generation on the Scottish Islands and views on the report are invited. We are already progressing a robust analysis of all the options. We recognise the need to do this swiftly – and we aim to complete this later this summer.”
Commenting on today's findings, WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: "It would be a great pity indeed if we were unable to take full advantage of the huge wind, wave and tidal power resource to be found on Scotland's islands.
This report make clear the importance island renewables could play in meeting our climate and renewables targets. We urge the UK and Scottish Governments to work together to relevant agencies to quickly find the most cost-effective ways forward that enable us to harness more of the clean energy on Scottish islands."
And Niall Stuart, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, added: “This confirms what we have been arguing for some time. It makes no sense to UK consumers or the Scottish islands for renewable energy projects to be held back by massive transmission charges.
“The islands have great potential for wind, wave and tidal energy, and can make a huge contribution to the growth of renewables, and the cleaning up of our energy sector. Likewise, local economies would receive a massive boost from the likely investment and jobs that could be created by projects on the islands.
“Our world-leading and tidal industry will not progress unless government intervenes to bring down charges, which are currently estimated to be up to 7 times higher on the islands than the mainland.
“This is welcome recognition of the problem, but we now need to see a solution that will bring charges down to a level that allows renewable projects to go ahead. That could be a cap on charges or an additional level of support for generators, both of which are questions that can only be answered by the UK Government.
“We also want to see Scottish and UK governments look at drawing down funds from the European Investment Bank, which could be used to help fund the necessary island grid infrastructure at a lower level of interest.”
David Krohn, RenewableUK’s Wave and Tidal development manager said: “The Scottish Islands are blessed with great wind, wave and tidal resources, and development there can kickstart our nascent marine energy industry. However, as this report shows, unless action is taken to offset the higher network costs in these areas, we simply won’t see the contribution that we need to from these areas.
"Furthermore, without incentives and mechanisms for encouraging investment in the grid, it is unlikely that we will capitalise on the opportunity to build an entirely domestic industry. That would not only mean the local economies missing out on the job and investment benefits, but also hold up development of our marine resource as a whole.
"That’s why RenewableUK is urging the UK and Scottish Governments to take on this work and ensure it leads to a solution for the islands."
The Government, with support from the Scottish Government, will use the report to weigh up the costs and benefits of renewable generation on the Scottish Islands against other sources of electricity, considering the impact on the local economies and communities, and importantly on wider consumers.
A response to the report, based on a full consideration of the evidence, will be published shortly.