Ewing's guarded Beatrice welcome

Scotland’s energy minister said the award of UK contract for difference (CFD) support to the Beatrice offshore wind farm was the “very least” the country’s clean-energy potential deserved, as he repeated calls for more clarity over future policy.

Fergus Ewing spoke after today’s decision to put Scotland's 664MW Beatrice on a list of eight renewable energy projects eligible for a CFD under the UK’s Final Investment Decision Enabling (FIDE) process.

Beatrice at one stage seemed destined to miss out, after being left off a shortlist of 10 deemed “provisionally affordable” along with Mainstream Renewable Power’s Neart na Gaoithe, and Repsol and EDPR’s 1.05GW Inch Cape.

Their absence caused friction between the UK and Scottish administrations, with Ewing in December demanding that the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in London think again.

Today the minister welcomed the inclusion: “We have been pressing DECC on this matter for several months so I am pleased that the Beatrice project is to be awarded a FID contract, which is the very least that the Scottish Government expected, given Scotland’s huge clean-energy potential.”

But Ewing added: “As yet we have not seen any fresh analysis from DECC regarding the amount of capacity and budget which remains after the award of these projects today. This analysis will have implications for remaining offshore and other major projects in Scotland, which can play a major part in energy security, and we will continue to press these cases.

“We are concerned that many of these schemes may not be able to proceed because of the lack of commitment to a market beyond 2020, and the lack of a decarbonisation target for 2030, which has and will constrain growth in the sector.”

Renewables, and energy generally, have emerged as a battleground ahead of Scotland's independence referendum in September.

SSE – which owns Beatrice in partnership with Spain’s Repsol – said the decision would allow it to move the project further along with a view to making a final investment decision in 2016.

The utility recently drastically scaled back its offshore wind ambitions, with Beatrice now more or less the full extent of its development focus.

SSE added: "However there is still significant additional work to be done before a final investment decision can be made, and we will be working closely with Repsol, and our supply chain partners, to further reduce costs and refine the development and construction programme, with the aim of delivering a commercially viable project in early 2016."