Energy Bill

Written submission submitted by Alison Chapman (EB 20)

Our family returned to Scotland in order to help make it ‘greener and fairer’ by our efforts and hard work restoring a neglected and exhausted hill farm using biodynamic and organic methods. Because of the problems inherent in electricity storage, the intermittency of wind generated power and the limits of Betz Law, we invested in solar tubes and photovoltaic, which work well at altitude and create little footprint or nuisance.

I am grateful for the opportunity to put the following points to the Committee based on more than 12 years experience of wind farm developments, and one in particular, in Scotland.

1. In 2003 SSE began scoping the landmark ridge in the outstanding historic and scenic Glenkens, Galloway, finally submitting their s36 proposal for a 69MW 23 x 365’ high turbine wind farm along the top of the 1300’ ridge known as Blackcraig. In 2007 it was rejected by the full D&G Council. Between 2008 and 2010 it was at PLI, which was sisted mainly because of grid and radar negotiations and granted permission with suspensive conditions on 22 March 2011, the last day in office of the outgoing minority government before the Holyrood elections.

2. Enquiries by local residents [1] , worried that the assignment of Blackcraig as an SPV and subsequent sale of its shareholding might impact adversely on their concerns about suspensive conditions regarding private water supplies, aviation etc., were addressed to the Scottish Government and the Energy Consents Deployment Unit (ECDU) about the framing and execution of s36 consent suspensive and other conditions and deemed planning permission conditions. In mid 2015 these enquiries resulted in it becoming clear, as the S.G. document itself declares, that: "Conditions attached to section 36 or 37 consent are enforced by the Scottish Ministers.  There is at present no statutory framework for the enforcement of conditions and so any enforcement action would rely upon interdict, specific implement or other judicial remedy to secure compliance or stop operations.’’ [2]

3. Such a situation begs t he question as to how Blackcraig s36 Consent Condition 8-(2 ) , which relates to the need for the development to be undertaken in its entirety with no partial implementation or any other such suspensive condition might be enforced , given that many wind farm developments have become SPVs. In answer to a question regarding such enforcement , the following response was received from ECDU : Scottish Government are fully compliant with the current regulatory framework under which consents for section 36 and section 37 are granted.

The financial circumstances of the company, who has been granted or assigned consent, is not a material consideration. [ personal email communication 24.08.15]

In considering any of the arrangements for grace periods following the Government’s 18.06.15 announcement of its intention to carry out its manifesto commitment, it is surely important, at least with regard to Scotland, to bear the above matters in mind.

4. It is also, however, now also clear that the Scottish Government introduced clear and precise procedures for the variation of s36 Consents through Scottish Statutory Instruments 2013 No. 304 [3] and the Guidance Note to support the process for Applying for Variation of Section36 Consents of the Electricity Act for Generating Stations in Scotland, September 2015 [4] . It is also abundantly clear from the documents lodged on the www.dumgal/eplanning website for 05/N/2/0005, the Blackcraig Wind Farm, that an application was made by SSE, an experienced world leader in wind farm developments, contrary to the regulations that had already been in place for two years, to vary the s36 Consent and Deemed Planning Permission. SSE’s application was made on 05.12.2014. This application to vary the s36 consent by exchanging the locations of a substation and a welfare control building some 4km to the other side of the ridge was granted by the local planning office on 19.12.2014, even though the relocation of the substation moved it to within 2 km of six residences and the already granted Blackcraig substation adjacent to the A702 to facilitate the grid connection to the (still) unconsented adjacent Margree development, which has been in planning since 2006 but would share a grid connection over some 25 miles to Meikle Hill in Ayrshire. Residents and interested parties were denied any notice or consultation by this breach of the existing Regulations or any opportunity to voice concerns regarding any impacts on their health, well-being or environment, in particular, issues concerning cumulative noise from the two substations, plus the proposed substation some 2km distant at Margree, together with the proposed substation for the Loch Urr development currently with Scottish Ministers some 2/3 km distant and the proposed substation to serve the reapplied Loch Hill wind farm again some 2km distant.

In addition, landowners FCS insist on undergrounding of the cable from the relocated substation to the consented first substation by the A702 which in itself must have some environmental impacts that need to be addressed, particularly with regard to water. Residents have made representations over many years regarding the abstraction of private water supplies from one of the Lochs, the complexities of the water catchment given that the Blackcraig ridge is a threeway water shed, coupled with substantial peat deposits on the rapidly diminishing upland heath. In effect EIA regulations have been ignored.

5. SPV Blackcraig Wind Farm ((Scotland) Ltd’s shareholding was sold by SSE to Blue Energy on June 1 2015. On 18 December 2015 it was announced by the Green Investment Bank that £83 million had been made available to Blue Energy to fund the construction of this wind farm. In the same week, the Environmental Audit Committee published its Report into the partial privatisation of the GIB in which the Chair is cited as having made the following comment:

1. The Green Investment Bank has done a great job of getting capital flowing to the kind of innovative green projects that sometimes struggle to secure financial backing

The extent to which the Blackcraig Wind Farm, 13 long years in development, can be considered ‘innovative’ or ‘green’ is open to debate but struggling for financial backing seems hardly likely for a project begun and continued for 12 years by energy giant SSE. It also seems logical to question why Blue Energy bought it if they knew they couldn’t afford to build it. Of much greater importance and significance, however, in the context of the amendments to the Energy Bill under consideration is to question why the GIB considered this an appropriate use of public monies, why a development that has a long and controversial history about its ‘green’ credentials, which has had its capacity at the single stroke of changing the turbines reduced from 69MW to 52.9MW without any reduction in its land take or environmental impact, why this development was even considered for public funding.

6. In the Gadarene rush for accreditation, special treatment, and more or more generous ‘grace’ periods, it is hoped that these few comments will assist the Committee in its work in furthering the duly endorsed UK Government’s manifesto commitment.

January 2016

[1] Copies can be made available of enquiries and replies, if any.

[2] Internal Review of Scottish Government Energy and Consents and Deployment Unit Consenting Processes under the Electricity Act 1989


[4] A Guidance Note to support the process for Applying for Variation of section 36 consents of the Electricity Act for Generating Stations in Scotland, ECDU September 2015


Prepared 2nd February 2016