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SSE threat to pull out of off-shore energy projects could kill sea wind bonanza

THOUSANDS of potential jobs and billions of pounds earmarked for Scotland's offshore wind-energy industry are in the balance after one of the industry's biggest players announced a review of its whole strategy.

POTENTIAL: Industry experts say Scotland could produce enough electricty from offshore wind farms to power three million homes. Picture: Getty
POTENTIAL: Industry experts say Scotland could produce enough electricty from offshore wind farms to power three million homes. Picture: Getty

SSE's veiled threat to pull out of its existing commitments, including planned schemes near Islay, in the Firth of Forth, and at Hunterston in North Ayrshire, comes as it remains on course to make £1.5 billion profits this year.

The Perth-based energy giant is to announce a decision on the future of the projects after conducting a two-month review.

Steven Camley's cartoon 

There are already warnings Scotland is in danger of throwing away its opportunity in the offshore renewables industry and the move has also strained relations between Holyrood and Westminster.

Lindsay Leask, senior policy manager for the industry body Scottish Renewables, said: "Despite having all the right ingredients to build a world-class offshore wind sector there is growing unease from developers because they feel they are being held back from delivering projects.

"With around five gigawatts of potential offshore wind development in planning - enough to meet the annual demand of three million homes - we can't afford to see these projects, and the investment decisions related to them, left in limbo."

SSE blamed the review on the UK Government's failure to include two of its other major developments in an initial subsidy.

One was the £3bn Beatrice wind farm off the Caithness coast, in which the firm has a 75% stake. It would have between 142 and 277 turbines. The Galloper wind farm off Suffolk, in which SSE has a 50% interest, was the other.

The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said last month neither were on its list of 10 projects which could share £4.5 billion of subsidies.

SSE's announcement follows Scottish Power's last month that it was abandoning the massive £5.4bn Argyll Array Offshore Wind Farm off the coast of Tiree, saying offshore wind technology would not make this viable within the next decade.

A statement from Perth-based SSE said the company was "disappointed" the Galloper and Beatrice projects have not been included in the provisional list of projects to get cash under the funding block known as Final Investment Decision Enabling for Renewables from by the UK Government.

As a result SSE "will complete a wide-ranging review of its offshore wind development portfolio by the end of this financial year and will report on its conclusions then."

The firm said this was one example of why there was greater uncertainty about the "shape and extent" of SSE's capital and investment programme in the five years from 2015, and added it was likely to be lower than the £1.5bn to £1.7bn invested in each year since 2010.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The Final Investment Decision enabling plans are flawed. They were made with zero consultation with the Scottish Government, and must be revisited. If not, then the UK Government should explain why so much support is being directed towards new nuclear technology, instead of helping Scotland harness its green energy potential.

"Instead of putting barriers in the way of Scottish offshore wind deployment the UK Government should be providing support …The UK Government promised that we would be consulted. This promise was broken."

Nobody was available from the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

Linda Holt, spokeswoman for anti-windfarm campaign Scotland Against Spin said: "The rest of the UK has 18 operational [offshore]wind farms; Scotland has two.

"Despite the Scottish Government spending over £10 million on test sites and other incentives, offshore wind development is at least six years behind schedule."

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