Last week I was able to raise the Eastern Link project in Parliament. A bland name but it’s the UKs largest infrastructure project in recent years. It’s two cables being laid to take renewable energy south from Scotland to England. One runs from Torness to Redcar and another from Peterhead to Yorkshire. They’ll be taking enough energy to power 2.8 million homes, which is more than we have in Scotland.
The project makes sense as Scotland’s blessed with a surfeit of energy. Almost 100% of Scotland’s domestic electricity supply’s already provided by renewables. Berwick Bank, just one of the offshore wind farms being constructed, provides that supply alone. And there’s more as there’s onshore wind never mind existing hydro, with tidal and wave still to be commercialized but they will be.
Supplying England is sensible as is accessing the European market. As Putin turns off his gas, other countries need to find new sources of energy. But where’s the benefit for Scotland or East Lothian. We’ve seen natural bounties before such as oil and gas and yet people and country missed out.
There’s no payment for the energy going south other than a small sum to Crown Estate for accessing the foreshore. What’s the use of being able to see turbines turning on or offshore if you can’t heat your home.
It’s why along with the wider issue of payment to Scotland for its resources and jobs and businesses that should be flocking to the area, I raised the issue of community benefit. Now there’s provision for that with onshore wind. However, when that was set no one considered that windfarms would go offshore.
That’s where there should be a real benefit for East Lothian with energy flowing ashore at Torness and Cockenzie. There should be a payment to the council as happened with oil and gas in Shetland. It wouldn’t be a huge amount which might discourage investment, but it would be enough to significantly benefit local communities.
I’m meeting the Minister who recognizes the legislative gap and has similar issues in his Humberside constituency. It’s right and badly needed.