Cable between Orkney and Scottish mainland worth up to £1.48 billion


A new electricity transmission link between Orkney and the Scottish mainland would be worth up to £1.48 billion to the country’s economy, a new report has said.

It comes following Ofgem’s approval for such a cable, with the study – by global professionals firm GHD – intended on determining the gross value added to the Orkney economy of such a link.

It found that the figure would stand at £371 million for the island, with it rising to £807 million if the wave and tidal energy industry made use of the cable too. The minimum for Scotland would be £606 million, with it rising to the £1.48 billion figure.

Ofgem’s approval comes with the condition that 135MW of new projects are created before work begins on the cable. Orkney Islands Council said that with just 45MW of projects currently consented, the 86.4MW could be generated Orkney’s community wind farm project would make an ‘essential’ contribution towards meeting the target.

The island’s community wind farm project encompasses three 28.8MW, six turbine, wind farm developments at Quanterness in St Ola, at Wee Fea in Hoy and on Faray in the North Isles.

The council said that ‘relatively’ few suitable sites remain in Orkney for a commercial scale developments and the three sites were chosen following a ‘rigorous’ selection process, taking account of factors including proximity to homes and designated areas.

The report found that council projects could provide close to four times more benefit to the local economy than privately owned developments, due to the fact that they would be publicly-owned – meaning that the income would remain in the constituency.

As well as generating significant income for the island, the report said that the projects could also provide an estimated annual payment of £144,000 per project into a ‘location-specific community benefit fund’, for local communities to drive transformational projects of their own.

John Mundell, interim chief executive of Orkney Islands Council, said, “The findings of this independent economic report unequivocally demonstrate just how important a transmission link is to Orkney’s economic future, not only in bringing much-needed income to the county but also in retaining and securing high-value jobs – giving us great hope as we look to stabilise Orkney’s economy post-Covid.

“The report also shows just how important the Council’s own proposed projects are to securing the cable – without the Council’s projects, to be frank, the cable will not happen.

“As the new Scottish Government cabinet ministers settle into their new roles, we hope that the report will strengthen their understanding of how critical this piece of infrastructure – and ‘Orkney’s community wind farm project – is to our islands – and Scotland as a whole.

Claire Mack, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, added, “Reaching our net-zero climate ambitions is going to require a significant increase in deployment of renewable energy technologies, many of which will be located is some of Scotland’s most remote regions.

“In order to harness the full benefits of these projects it is essential that our electricity transmission system, which was built more than half a century ago, is upgraded to ensure there is sufficient network capacity to support these new ways of generating and using power.

“Renewable energy projects not only help reduce Scotland’s carbon emissions but also bring billions of pounds of investment and significant socio-economic benefits to the communities in which they are located, particularly through new skilled employment opportunities.

“This report clearly demonstrates the importance of improving our network infrastructure, the considerable benefits this can bring to Scotland’s economy, our remote communities and our fight against climate change.”

Matthew Finn, commercial director of EMEC, added, “I welcome the findings of the report commissioned by Orkney Islands Council which clearly sets out the substantial economic benefits of securing a new electricity transmission link for Orkney. Importantly for EMEC it shows the enabling role that the link will have in providing a route to market for our world-leading marine energy industry, unlocking the full potential of an industry which has the potential to set Orkney and Scotland at the very heart of a clean green future.”