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Ofgem takes wind out of Orkneys power cable plan, say campaigners

Opportunity: Energy from the islands' wind turbines could be channeled to mainland Britain

Activists say the project to build cables to send power from Orkneys to mainland homes and businesses is being unnecessarily blocked by Ofgem

An ambitious project to build a giant cable to bring power from the Orkneys to thousands of homes and businesses across mainland Britain is being unnecessarily blocked by energy regulator Ofgem, activists say.

The cable, proposed by FTSE100 giant SSE, could reduce Britain’s reliance on foreign supplies at a time when households are facing record price hikes.

The Orkneys are a hotspot for green energy projects, regularly producing more than the islands can consume. Activists believe the cable would allow excess power to be sent to the UK’s national grid.

Opportunity: Energy from the islands' wind turbines could be channeled to mainland Britain

Opportunity: Energy from the islands’ wind turbines could be channeled to mainland Britain

As a result, the huge surge in bills fueled by global wholesale markets could eventually be curbed by increased supply in the UK.

Ofgem has so far refused to sign off on the transmission cable. It argues that SSE must prove the pipeline is paying off before giving it the green light, to reduce the risk of billpayers being saddled with the costs if the project fails.

Although the Orkneys are already producing large amounts of green energy, Ofgem insists SSE proves it can produce significantly more before it is given the go-ahead.

Projects that will deliver 100 megawatts of green electricity are already on the way, but the regulator has set a hurdle of 135 MW. Critics have branded this threshold as “arbitrary” and want Ofgem to scrap it.

Proponents say wind and tidal developments in the Orkneys offer a clean, home-grown alternative to Russian gas.

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There are already thin cables running to the mainland. But they would be dwarfed by SSE’s 220MW interconnector, which would be enough to power 300,000 homes. Local politicians and pundits claim there are more than enough new projects underway to assuage Ofgem’s concerns – and that its reluctance could delay future investments.

Neil Kermode, Director of the Orkney Renewable Energy Forum, called on Ofgem to support the project, saying: “The likelihood of this cable going unused is close to zero. The 220MW cable will be quite small compared to what the islands could [eventually] deliver.’

SSE told The Mail on Sunday: “We believe the criteria for a new link with Orkney are now met.” The company said it would continue talks with Ofgem.

The MoS understands that the Company may consider constructing a second interconnector as power generation development in the region progresses.

Alistair Carmichael, Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland, said the project would help “wean us off dependence on Russian gas and Saudi Arabian oil and we would have cheaper energy and from a reliable source”.

He added: “Ofgem should have seen this 20 years ago but either didn’t or was so blinded by the big oil and gas companies that they chose to ignore it.”

An Ofgem spokesman said: ‘We are evaluating all the information that has been made available to us and remain committed to publishing our updated view of the Orkney Transmission project in due course.’

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