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Government accused on negativity

Westminster told to rethink ‘crazy’ energy policy

Lord Stephen speaking

The UK Government must rethink its energy policy which currently subsidises overseas investments at the expense of homegrown policies, according to a former Scottish government minister.

Lord Stephen told a renewables conference that it was ‘crazy’ that subsidies for foreign investment backed nuclear projects were being prioritised at the expense of local renewable proposals.

Speaking at the event in Inverness, organised by law firm Harper Macleod, the Scotland spokesman for the Lib Dems in the House of Lords, said a “significant number of innovative projects” were being proposed in the sector, particularly in the Highlands.

“However, the unfortunate reality is that not enough of these projects will come to fruition unless the current UK government policy towards renewable energy is changed, and changed quickly,” said Lord Stephen, who also served as Scotland’s Energy Minister.

“The government’s negative approach is not just in relation to onshore wind, but affects the likes of solar and hydro projects too,” he said.

“Many involve a strong element of community ownership. This conference is yet another demonstration of the ingenuity and drive that exists within the local renewable industry – from developers, communities and the public agencies – to secure Scotland’s renewable future.

DB Photogtraphy advert 2“Many of these projects simply will not be viable with the extremely limited support now available, which pales in comparision to the huge government subsidy being offered to the new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point. It’s a crazy situation which subsidises huge French and Chinese nuclear investors, at the expense of small and medium size renewable projects in the Highlands and Islands.”

Lord Stephen, a former Deputy First Minister, was speaking at the 7th annual Scottish Highland Renewable Energy Conference organised by the law firm Harper Macleod.

The SHREC conference highlighted the growth of local and community involvement in renewable energy projects as well as the development of innovative new energy storage and demand side management schemes such as the NINES project in Shetland.

David Bone, a renewable energy lawyer  and head of energy & natural resources at Harper Macleod, said: “As always, energy policy decisions loom large in the sector and have a significant impact on the future of our local industry.

“However, while we push for a re-think on UK energy policy, both to give investors confidence and keep the lights on, it is clear that we must also continue to think outside of the box to create our own renewable future.

“So much hard work has been put in by so many people to get to this point, that it is essential we don’t allow the progress made in renewable energy across the Highlands and Islands to be derailed, despite the challenges it faces. There are some groundbreaking projects already in place while the growth of community involvement and shared ownership is another bright light.”

The conference also heard from speakers including Laura Nicolson, Shared Ownership Development Manager at Local Energy Scotland, George Baxter, head of development strategy at SSE renewables, Felix Wight, head of development at Community Energy Scotland, and Jeremy Sainsbury OBE, director at Natural Power.

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