By Graham Huband
Scotland’s Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing, hopes four major wind arrays in
the firths of Forth and Tay will be built despite a major legal challenge
to their development.
Bird protection charity RSPB Scotland sent shockwaves through the sector in
Scotland earlier this month after a last-minute move to seek judicial
review of Mr Ewing’s decision to grant consents for the Neart na Gaoithe,
Inch Cape and Seagreen Alpha and Bravo arrays.
It is understood the RSPB’s application will come before the courts for the
first time in late May and there are concerns within the industry the legal
process will prove both costly and lengthy.
During an address to delegates at the Scottish Renewables’ offshore wind
and supply chain conference in Aberdeen on Tuesday, Mr Ewing said the
consents formed the “basis of a new industry in Scotland”.
And he said they had been granted following a “long, painstaking” process
involving Marine Scotland, the Scottish Government directorate responsible
for the integrated management of Scottish waters.
The four consented east coast arrays represent a potential investment of
more than £7 billion and their scores of turbines would have the potential
to produce enough power for more than 1.4 million homes.
Speaking to The Courier after his speech, Mr Ewing said he hoped the
windfarms would go ahead as planned.
“We are very confident the processes followed by Marine Scotland were
robust and comprehensive and that any challenge will be unsuccessful,” he said.
“The offshore wind projects offer enormous potential, not least for the
citizens of Dundee, so I hope the projects will go ahead.”
Mr Ewing also tackled the issue of financial support for the wind sector
through the Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme and said it now appeared
the scale of the UK Government’s ambitions for developing the industry were
now significantly less than stated previously.
Only SSE’s joint venture Beatrice development in the outer Moray Firth has
an investment contract and Mr Ewing called on delegates to join him in
“hoping” that a Scottish project would be included in the forthcoming CfD
The subject of CfD was also raised during a later panel session featuring
Dan Finch, managing director of EDPR UK and development director of Moray
Offshore Renewables, Repsol Nuevas UK managing director Ronnie Bonnar,
SSE’s Beatrice project director Brian McFarlane and Jonathan Cole, offshore
managing director for ScottishPower Renewables.
The panel were asked what impact there would be on their respective
projects if they failed to secure the state-backed support.
Mr Cole said having forward financial visibility was key to a major
infrastructure project while Mr Bonnar said an unsuccessful application for
funding did not necessarily mean “game over”, although it would not be good
Mr Bonnar said it was inevitable given the support available that some
developers would be left disappointed following the CfD round, but he said
it was the process thereafter that would determine how the industry was
shaped going forward.
Scottish Renewables chief executive Niall Stuart said the sector was at a
critical stage in its development.
He said the past year had brought both positive and negative developments
and warned there was no guarantee of success.
He urged developers and supply chain companies to work even more closely to
drive innovation and cut costs, adding the drop in the oil price meant the
renewables sector had to work even harder to compete with the traditional
fossil fuel market.