10,000 jobs could come from islands' renewable energy projects
Wind, wave and tidal energy could transform Western Isles, Shetland and Orkney finds report.
Renewable energy projects could create more than 10,000 jobs on the Scottish islands by 2030, according to a Government-commissioned report.
An independent study found that investment in wind, wave and tidal energy would bring significant socio-economic benefits to the Western Isles, Shetland and Orkney and could establish Scotland as a world leader in marine technologies.
But the expense and difficulty of accessing the National Grid means the Government needs to weigh up the cost and benefits of developing renewable energy on the islands against other sources of electricity, the report said.
The Government has agreed a target of meeting 15% of the UK's energy needs from renewable sources by 2020, which requires about 30% of UK electricity to come from renewables by this date.
The Scottish Government aims to generate the equivalent of 100% of Scotland's gross annual electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2020.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change and Scottish ministers appointed energy consultants Baringa Partners and TNEI to assess whether Scottish Islands renewables could help meet the targets and what was needed to bring the projects forward.
If renewable projects in the region are to be a key contributor to the targets then a co-ordinated policy is "urgently" needed, the consultants advised.
The report said: "We have concluded in our study that further renewable generation on the Scottish Islands will not be developed on any scale in the near term under current policy.
"The costs of connecting to the transmission system are too high, making it difficult for developers and the regulator acting on behalf of customers to commit to costly new transmission infrastructure.
"In turn, the lack of grid access deters new developers, particularly those not in a position to meet the financial commitments required to secure future grid capacity.
"Ongoing uncertainty will inevitably lead to delays meaning that, despite the potential, renewable generation on the Scottish Islands would only make a minimal contribution to 2020 renewables targets, and an opportunity to develop the UK as a world leader in marine renewables could be lost.
"Government will need to weigh up the costs and benefits of renewable generation on the Scottish Islands against other sources of electricity, as set out in this report and elsewhere, and in particular considering the impact on the local economies and communities, and importantly on wider GB consumers.
"Should the political commitment be there for Scottish Islands renewables to be a key contributor to Scottish and UK 2020 renewable strategies and beyond, then a co-ordinated policy and regulatory response will be required urgently."
UK Energy Secretary Edward Davey said: "The Government is keen to unlock the potential for the development for renewable energy on the Scottish Islands, but it's vital that projects represent value for money for the consumer.
"The report being published marks a considerable step in progress towards making decisions about supporting renewables investment on the Scottish Islands."
A UK Government response to the report will be published shortly.
Scotland's Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: "The report will now help the UK and Scottish Government to assess the range of possible options for addressing the challenges facing island renewable developers.
"Publication today marks the end of the first phase of the intergovernmental work to understand the barriers to generation on the Scottish Islands and views on the report are invited. We are already progressing a robust analysis of all the options. We recognise the need to do this swiftly and we aim to complete this later this summer."
WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: "It would be a great pity indeed if we were unable to make full use of the huge wind, wave and tidal power resource to be found on Scotland's islands.
"This report make clear the importance island renewables could play in meeting our climate and renewables targets. We urge the UK and Scottish governments to quickly find the most cost-effective ways forward that enable us to harness more of the clean energy on Scottish Islands."
Report analysis suggested 1271 jobs could be created on the islands by 2020 and 10,900 within the following decade — 3500 on the Western Isles, 2900 in Shetland and 4500 on Orkney.
Western Isles Council leader Angus Campbell said: "The report clearly demonstrates that the on-shore renewables sector offers the Outer Hebrides potential for significant new economic development.
"It also confirms what the council has been warning about repeatedly over the years — that there are significant challenges for the Scottish Islands, particularly the barriers around transmission charges and grid access.
"It is now essential that these barriers are clearly addressed in order to allow renewables projects in the Scottish islands to move to implementation and I look forward to this report being a launching point for rapid progress being made on these two critical issues."
Orkney MSP Liam McArthur said: "This is a valuable piece of work, vividly highlighting the potential for Orkney to be a world leader in wave and tidal energy.
"It also sets out clearly the obstacles that need to be overcome if we are to ensure our islands play their full part in helping create a renewables revolution in this country.
"Armed with this information, it is essential now that both Scotland's governments get on with making the changes that need to happen."
Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil said: "This report sets out the sort of incentive required to harness the renewables of the islands and pitches the level of incentive between that provided for onshore wind and offshore wind — illustrating that island renewables are competitive with other forms of energy generation, that the incentives required are perfectly achievable, and are, for example, far less than that required for wave or tidal.
"Future opportunities for renewable generation on the islands, developed in co-operation with and with the agreement of island communities, are to be welcomed."
Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan said: "It is only fair that the part of Scotland with the greatest potential for renewable energy generation has a fair incentive in place in order to release that potential.
"With both the Scottish and UK Governments backing this report, it is a major step forward to harnessing our energy potential in the islands and creating much needed local jobs in the process."
Feedback: We want your feedback on our site. If you've got questions, spotted an inaccuracy or just want to share some ideas about our news service, please email us on email@example.com.
Download: The STV News app is Scotland's favourite and is available for iPhone from the Apple store and for Android from Google Play. Download it today and continue to enjoy STV News wherever you are.