After the political furore that followed the decision of the new UK government to withdraw subsidies for onshore wind farms it was good to hear of a community in the Western Isles getting a £3 million windfarm payout from an energy company, without a single turbine ever being built.
Engie, the new name for the French energy giant previously known as GDF-Suez, will make the a final payment of £1.92m having already paid out £1m to the Muaitheabhal Community Wind Farm Trust (MCWFT) last year.
The payments are part of a golden goodbye to the Eisgein estate on Lewis after Engie got fed up with repeated delays over the building of a £780m subsea electricity cable that would have allowed electricity to be exported to the mainland.
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Construction work on the £200m 39-turbine wind farm was to have got underway at least two years ago and Engie had been expected to contribute to the cost of the cable, along with other renewable energy developers.
The payment, which Engie is legally obliged to make, is a nice bonus for the community without, as MCWFT chairman Iain MacIver says, the need for it to take any financial risk. The building of an interconnector to the mainland has been talked about for well over a decade, but has been dogged by seemingly endless delays.
Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission, a division of SSE, announced in April a timetable for the cable to laid by 2020, but this week added that its submission of a ‘needs case’ to Ofgem before the end of the year would now be subject to an announcement from the UK government on financial support for offshore wind, not expected until the autumn.
As costs rise for this and other Scottish island energy projects and regulators show little sign of making decisions anytime soon, could it be that the best hope that communities have of making any money from renewable energy is the windfall payments triggered when projects are cancelled?