The challenges facing the energy sector in Scotland have again been to the fore.
On Friday morning, Energy Minister Fergus Ewing announced the go-ahead for SSE Renewables’ massive Coire Glas pumped-storage hydro-electric scheme after years stuck in the planning stages.
The clear indication was the project the largest single development of its kind in Scotland for a generation with the capacity to produce enough juice to power 10% of Scotland at peak demand was good to go.
Surely all that was needed was for a construction crew to be assembled and the ground to be broken?
But in reality, what is a nationally significant scheme which comes with an eye-watering £800 million price tag could well be left in limbo for years to come. The problem is that subsidy support for pumped-storage hydro simply doesn’t exist.
There is no provision under the current Renewable Obligations Certificate scheme and there is no plan to alter that position under the incoming Contracts for Difference regime.
Without the certainty state-backed subsidy support provides to other forms of renewable energy, Coire Glas’s Perth-based developer is understandably loathe to put its shareholders in the firing line and make its own financial commitment to the project.
Just hours after the metaphorical brakes were put on Coire Glas, Glasgow-based ScottishPower Renewables found itself in the spotlight after it announced it was pulling out of a major windfarm development in the Inner Hebrides.
The company cited various technical and environmental issues including the local basking shark population as reasons for its decision to drop its £5.4 billion 1800MW Argyll array project.
But from my point of view the most worrying part of SPR’s Argyll withdrawal was its view of the technology available to the sector right now.
Not only did SPR find current foundation and installation technologies inadequate for its needs at Argyll, the company said the situation was unlikely to improve significantly in the short term.
In fact, it said it could be a decade or more before large enough technological strides were made to be able to support the commercial development of the Argyll array.
That assessment must have sent a shiver or two down the spines of other potential developers looking to establish major wind arrays elsewhere in Scottish waters.
So, with the dawning of a new week, I was on the lookout for some good news for the sector. Unfortunately, that failed to transpire on Monday when Ofgem announced a year’s delay in the implementation of its review into the transmission charging regime for the electricity network.
Project Transmit is supposed to promote green energy uptake while keeping transmission costs under control.
The scheme’s implementation is seen as critical to the development of the Scottish energy market as electricity producers north of the border and particularly those in outlying regions pay higher transmission charges than power suppliers in the South of England do for access to the grid.
The delay was greeted with anger from various green energy-minded groups and Mr Ewing he of Coire Glas approvals fame spoke of his disappointment at the regulator’s “unacceptable” prevarication.
It has not been an easy few days for the energy industry, and there remain significant challenges for the sector to overcome in the months ahead. But with the year end in sight the overall progress made by the sector during 2013 should not be overlooked or underestimated.
The path to a greener future may be bumpy, but it remains within our grasp.
* With the Big Day falling before I am due to pen my next column, I thought I would wrap up this week with the best wishes of the season to all our readers. Merry Christmas to one and all!