Other renewable energy projects in the UK can proceed on a basis of building then connecting to the national electricity grid. This is not the case for Shetland. Because of our distance from the UK mainland a cable will have to be built. The proposed cable, "the interconnector" would be 320km long.
Before electricity can be sent several hundred kilometres south, it must be converted from AC current to DC current. This converter station itself will have a massive environmental, not to mention physical footprint at the proposed site in the Upper Kergord valley.
The cable interconnector will be a massive project in its own right, and brings with it its own environmental, social and visual impact. The estimated cost for the cable is around £550m. The developer would be SHETL, a subsidiary of SSE PLc, 50% project partners in Viking Energy windfarm.
We object to the proposal for interconnector and converter station, not because we have any fundamental objection to the cable as such, but because it is an integral part of the Viking Energy scheme. Without a cable there is no Viking Energy scheme. Without a cable we have more chance of developing appropriate and sustainable wind farm development.
Councillor Robert Henderson, a director of a project to build a wind farm at Cullivoe in Yell recently stated that his project did not depend on the interconnector cable.
The converter station and cable is crucial to the Viking windfarm. It is not surprising therefore that 9 councillors, all involved as developers through Viking Energy, voted to grant planning permission to the converter station on 2 February 2011.
Cable landfall in Shetland is proposed at Weisdale Voe.
Current transmission charges are paid for by electricity generating companies. The further from point of consumption energy is produced, the higher the transmission charges.
Viking Energy are lobbying for subsidised transmission charges. Ultimately it is consumers who pay for these subsidies. The highest current UK transmission charges are around £23 / kw (North of Scotland and Western Isles). Transmission charging is very complex, but as far as we understand from the National Grid, transmission charges are "cost reflective", i.e. the generator (Viking Energy) and final supplier (your electricity supplier) cover the cost of of their use of the transmission network. The further you generate power from the point of consumption, the more you pay.
The cable will cost around £550m. That's about £22m per year over 25 years. Transmission charges would need to be around that level to cover costs. If the generator (Viking Energy) doesn't want to pay this cost, someone else will have to - the government or electricity customers.
Viking Energy and Shetland Islands council are currently lobbying electricity regulator Ofgem to skew the market in their favour. There is undoubtedly an argument in favour of making the best use of resources, including fair pricing mechanisms. But we believe that artificially subsidising the cost of a marginal scheme like Viking Energy, to the detriment of better projects, may not be the best use of cash or deliver a good deal for the public or the environment.
9 councillors out of 22 granted outline planning permission for a converter station on 2/2/2011. It's clearly very handy serving as planning body and developer at the same time. The applicant, SHETL, said at the specially convened council meeting that the only reason for the converter station was the Viking Energy Windfarm. This contradicted several councillors and officials who argued that the application was not directly linked to the windfarm.
In this case, a conflict of interest between councillors acting as developers and the planning authority undermines local democracy and makes a mockery of any attempt to have a coherent and enforceable planning policies.