The latest development with the EU Court of Justice acceptance of a legal challenge issued by EPAW [European Platform Against Windfarms], indicates that the implications of the Aarhus Convention to Renewables Development may be gaining some momentum.
Three years ago its possible implications were discounted, to the extent of being ignored .
The convention provides for access to information in environmental matters. Broadly it requires Governments to make available the scientific justifications for programmes which may affect the environment in which we live .
The genesis of the move to bring the convention ‘into the body of the kirk’, so to speak, was infrastructure development in eastern EU member states. This may have contributed to western EU member states discounting the Convention’s emergence as a possible mover and shaker in the Renewable Development.
Where this will go to and what its consequences may be is anyone’s guess. One of the first formal complaints to the EU re a possible breach of the Convention has come from Argyll – from Avich and Kilchrennen Community Council.
Being realistic, if any EU member state is found to be in breach, it would be unrealistic to expect a retrospective dismantling of existing wind farms. But who knows? Certainly for any future development, it may have significant implications.
In Argyll’s back yard, this would mean developers of future wind farms may have to consider the gathering momentum surrounding the trajectory of the implications of the Aarhus Convention.
These have particular relevance for the two offshore Argyll Arrays, both of which carry significant environmental issues and both, co-incidentally, are ‘on-hold’.
The Tiree Array is formally on hold and the Islay Array is, de facto, on hold.
It would be commercially imprudent for SPR and SSE respectively to take these developments forward, without an indemnity from the Scottish Government that, in doing so, the Scottish Government has not been in breach of the Aarhus Convention.
As it currently stands Scottish Government has had to warn–off developers from pressuring Marine Scotland.
Lighten up on Marine Scotland, says Ewing
Scotland’s Energy Minister has fired a shot across the bows of the offshore wind industry over ‘undue’ pressure on the body determining some 4GW of projects north of the border.
Fergus Ewing said at the Renewable UK Offshore 2013 conference in Manchester last week, that Marine Scotland should be left in peace to carry out its assessments of four current projects.
‘Due process is absolutely essential’, said Ewing. ‘I would… like to make it clear that Marine Scotland must be allowed to undertake robust, impartial and carefully considered judgment of each application without fear of undue interference or external pressures.’
He warned industry might otherwise ‘erode’ the agency’s ‘autonomy and impartiality’.
A spokeswoman later distanced the minister from any criticism of industry, saying the comments were ‘simply to illustrate Marine Scotland’s hard work’.
Development sources acknowledged that the sector is ‘keen’ for decisions in the short term but could not point to any one company being ‘over-eager’ in its dealings with the regulator.
The first project considered by the body, Vattenfall and AREG’s 100MW Aberdeen offshore wind farm, was in the system for 19 months before sanction earlier this year.
SSE and Repsol’s 1000MW Beatrice was filed in April 2012 while Mainstream’s 450MW Neart na Gaoithe and EDP and Repsol’s 1500MW Moray Firth followed that summer.
SSE and Fluor filed the 1050MW Seagreen phase one in October while Repsol and EDP’s 905MW Inch Cape is currently being gate-checked ahead of a full-blown application.
Holyrood claimed that those cases where determination has run beyond its nine-month planning objective were due to the requirement for supplementary data and consultation.
Robert Trythall is Chair of the No Tiree Array campaign.