Scotland business

Energy firm Vattenfall condemns wind farm protesters

Wind turbines
Image caption MSPs are investigating renewable energy targets set by the Scottish government

An energy firm has claimed that wind farm developments are being unfairly blocked by "tiny" groups of protesters.

Vattenfall also said the Scottish planning system was the biggest potential risk to investment in onshore wind projects.

The company made its claims in a report to Holyrood's economy, energy and tourism committee.

The Scottish government said it had made "good progress" in speeding up the deployment of renewable energy.

In its report, Vattenfall described an inadequately resourced planning system, adding: "Unfortunately, there are too many examples of decision-makers across Scotland being swayed by a tiny vocal minority, thus denying a majority who support a proposal any influence in the planning system."

'Dogged opposition'

Vattenfall said dogged opposition by six protesters to the Edinbane wind farm on Skye went against the wishes of hundreds of local people and delayed the scheme by several years.

Its report asserted there was "weakening political support" for onshore wind and "weakness" in labour force skills.

The report is being considered by the committee among submissions from West Coast Energy Ltd, Burcote Wind, Renewable Energy Consultants Ltd and Scottish Power, which are all expected to appear in parliament on Wednesday.

MSPs are investigating the Scottish government's renewable energy targets, which include meeting the equivalent of 100% of gross annual electricity demand from renewables by 2020.

'Costly delays'

West Coast Energy said the planning system was under increasing pressure, adding: "In return for paying planning fees, developers are often met with long, costly delays in determination times, refusal by authorities to meet to discuss applications, and repeated requests for further information."

Burcote stated: "Technically speaking, the 2020 renewables targets are achievable. The technology, especially for onshore wind, and the political will is there.

"However, Burcote Wind believes that the complexities of the planning process and the high costs associated with connection to the electricity grid present significant barriers, especially for onshore wind projects which will form the vast majority of renewable energy installations needed to meet the targets.

"We believe that these barriers have the potential to jeopardise the achievement of the targets."

'Good progress'

A Scottish government spokesman said there was a total estimated capital investment of £46bn in the sector, with the potential to create thousands of new jobs.

"We have already made good progress speeding up the deployment of renewable energy by streamlining the planning process, improving the quality of applications and increasing community engagement," he said.

"As a result, the number of onshore consents has increased four-fold since 2007, with some 50 major developments consented by this government."

The spokesman said that in February, First Minister Alex Salmond announced action being taken by a task force to streamline the process for offshore developments.

"We want to see the right developments in the right places," he added.

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