War of words blows up over renewable energy plans in Lewis
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THE leader of Western Isles Council has criticised a former MP’s comments regarding proposals for renewable energy projects in Lewis.
Calum MacDonald, executive director of Point and Sandwick Power, has called for greatly increased community involvement in the proposed Lewis Windpower projects.
The move follows a visit by the UK Secretary of State for Business and Energy, Greg Clark MP, to Stornoway on April 10.
Mr MacDonald, a former MP for the Western Isles, was invited by Mr Clark to attend the Scottish Islands Renewable Delivery Forum meeting at the Caberfeidh Hotel.
Afterwards he said: ‘ From the start of the meeting, Greg Clark made clear his primary interest was the degree of community involvement, ownership and benefit in the three island projects, and that maximising the community role was the best hope, indeed the only hope, of getting any of the inter- connector projects funded.’
Mr MacDonald claimed the Western Isles has the weakest community involvement of all three projects currently proposed, saying: ‘Both the council and Lewis Windpower must quickly revise their plans. Community ownership and control has to be at the front and centre of the inter- connector case.
‘That is why I am calling on the new council, which is to be elected in May, to immediately sit down with Lewis Windpower and to re-engineer its project so that the community stake is increased to at least 50 per cent in line with Shetland, guaranteed by legal agreements which cannot be reneged on in the future.
‘There will be a very short window of opportunity before the government makes its final decision and we must do everything to make our case as attractive and compelling as possible.’
Angus Campbell, leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, described Mr MacDonald’s comments as disappointing and said Point and Sandwick Power seems solely interested in its own development at the expense of other renewable energy developments in the Western Isles, adding: ‘The comhairle believes it is important for the community to be able to share in the ownership of largescale renewables but an appropriate balance has to be achieved between risk and reward.
‘A huge opportunity still exists for the development of a renewables industry in the Outer Hebrides. The window of opportunity for achieving that is narrow and there is much local agreement as to the best approach.’
In response to these comments, Mr MacDonald said: ‘Sadly, this speaks volumes for the begrudging attitude of the council leadership to the community energy sector, despite the fact community wind farms are already investing £2 million a year from the Butt to Barra, twice the community benefit that is being promised from the large Stornoway wind farm.’