Producers of renewable energy in Scotland’s islands and north mainland almost certainly face the highest charges in Europe to connect to a national electricity grid, according to a new report.
The study, ‘European practices with grid connection, reinforcement, constraint and charging of renewable energy projects’, was commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and carried out by consultants Xero Energy.
The report provides further backing for the case which the First Minister is taking to electricity regulator Ofgem when he meets them in Scotland next week [Thursday 20 September].
It examined EU directives relating to renewable energy and the grid and compared UK practice with other European countries, notably the three leading renewable energy producers: Denmark, Germany and Spain.
The report was positive about Britain’s ‘super shallow’ charging policy – which means that energy producers are charged to connect to the grid, but do not have to meet the costs of grid reinforcement to handle new energy sources.
However, the cost of connecting in north mainland areas was found to be many times greater than other UK countries – and 30 times higher than Denmark, one of Europe’s leaders in renewable energy production.
Island costs are even higher, according to the report, which states these are ‘almost certainly higher than in any other European country’.
The report will no doubt fuel debate on UK grid charging practices, which are set by Ofgem.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise head of renewables, Elaine Hanton, says the report raises serious concerns that high grid connection charges are hindering the development of a cutting edge industry which could bring enormous benefits to Scotland’s islands and rural areas in particular.
“The potential to produce marine and wind energy in coastal areas, offshore and on islands is absolutely vast,” she said.
“These places have some of the strongest waves, tides and winds to be found anywhere in Europe, a fact which ought to be giving Scotland and the UK a natural advantage over our competitors.
“The current charging regime for UK grid connections pre-dates recent government commitments to increase our use of energy from renewable sources. The clear message emerging from our research is that it is time our charging practices were re-examined to be brought into line with other national energy priorities.”
The full report is available online from Thursday 13 September on the HIE website at www.hie.co.uk/eu-grid-practices