Higher fees for wind farm plans being considered

RENEWABLE energy targets in Scotland are achievable by 2020 but only if a number of issues are addressed.

The Scottish Government’s Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee has spent months gathering evidence on what progress is being made, concluding that while the renewable energy targets could be met there is a risk that they will fall short.

There were a number of issues that came to light during the inquiry, including the pressure some local authorities were under because of the high volume of applications, a skills shortage that was creating a risk of the targets not being met and challenges that still need to be overcome in connecting to the national grid.

Suggestions that tourism is negatively affected by the development of renewable projects were not supported in the evidence before the committee but because of the importance of Scotland’s tourism industry the committee recommends that VisitScotland and the Scottish Government continue to gather evidence from visitors to Scotland.

Scottish Borders Council is one of the councils under pressure from wind farm applicants and the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee are recommending that the Scottish Government, COSLA and the heads of planning Scotland produce a breakdown of renewable energy developments by local authority area. Higher fees for large scale applications are also being considered.

In July this year SBC leader, Councillor David Parker said: “Scottish Borders Council have long been of the view that the application fees that we receive for wind farm planning applications are wholly inadequate and do not cover the costs of processing and dealing with these applications.

“This has put a significant strain on our financial resources and our planning officers and we have been making representations to Scottish Government both directly ourselves and also via COSLA and directors of planning. We have been working to encourage Scottish Government to seriously look at the fees that we receive in relation to wind farm applications and other planning applications.”

Ironically just as the Scottish Government is forced into admitting that funding for colleges has been cut, the committee looking at renewable energy targets is recommending investment in science, technolgy, engineering, and maths at school, college and university level; and that the Scottish Government and Scottish Funding Council work with the Energy Skills Partnership and the Energy Technology Partnership.

Convener of the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee Murdo Fraser MSP said: “Our recommendations are crucial to the success of the renewables industry in Scotland. The overwhelming message from investors was that strong leadership, and a robust and reliable investment climate and subsidy regime is critical for the targets to be met.”