Photo: Illustration/EMEC cable section (Courtesy of EMEC/Photo by Orkney Photographic)

Orkney transmission link could bring in £807M to local economy

A new electricity transmission link between Orkney and the Scottish mainland could be worth £807 million to Orkney economy if the wave and tidal energy industry makes use of the cable too, according to a study into the potential value of the cable.

Illustration/EMEC cable section (Courtesy of EMEC/Photo by Orkney Photographic)
Illustration/EMEC cable section (Courtesy of EMEC/Photo by Orkney Photographic)

The link could be worth at least £371 million to the Orkney economy, while for the Scotland the figures are a minimum of £606 million, rising to up to £1.48 billion, the study states.

The independent report – put together by specialists at global professional services firm GHD – also found that the three wind farms under ‘Orkney’s Community Wind Farm Project’ are vital in securing a cable for Orkney.

Ofgem has conditionally approved a Need Case for the new cable, requiring 135MW of new projects to trigger the 220MW cable.

With just 45MW of projects currently consented, the 86.4MW that could be generated by ‘Orkney’s Community Wind Farm Project’ would make an essential contribution towards meeting this target.

Ofgem recently extended the deadline for the Needs Case conditions to be met by a year to December 2022, in light of delays experienced as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Matthew Finn, commercial director of the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), said: “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”.

The report also draws attention to the fact that the Orkney Islands Council projects could provide close to four times more benefit to the economy than privately owned developments, due to the fact that they would be publicly-owned – and therefore the income would remain in the county.

As well as generating significant income for the county, the projects could also provide an estimated annual payment of £144,000 per project into a ‘location-specific community benefit fund’, for local communities.

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”.