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New strategy needed to keep benefits of renewable energy in the Highlands says election hopeful

Beatrice offshore wind farm north of Caithness. Photo supplied by SSE.
Beatrice offshore wind farm north of Caithness. Photo supplied by SSE.

A Caithness politician is calling for a new strategy to keep the benefits of renewable energy within Highland.

Karl Rosie is standing for re-election in ward 2, Thurso and North West Caithness.

Mr Rosie wants to bring together industry, community and political representatives to thrash out a new plan for Highland renewables.

Inspired by the Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group, the Highland group would be tasked with ensuring the benefits of renewable energy are felt across the region.

Mr Rosie says Highland produces more than a quarter of Scotland’s renewable electricity. Last year, the region produced 418% of its energy consumption needs from renewables.

More to do

However, Mr Rosie believes the full potential remains untapped.

“There’s clearly confidence in our area,” he says. “This is evident in the recent public/private sector investment in hydrogen production at seven locations across Highland.

Karl Rosie is standing for re-election in Thurso and North West Caithness. Photo supplied.

“At the same time, battery storage and wind turbine manufacturing facilities are at the planning stage. Hydro storage and tidal energy should be top of our aims. There’s so much for us to consider if we’re serious about taking major positive steps towards a carbon free, net zero Highland.”

Mr Rosie believes cross-party membership will challenge both parliaments to match Highland’s ambitions.

There has already been some progress to that end. Last month, Highland Council agreed to commission an action plan for green energy.

A fairer deal

At the heart of the matter, Mr Rosie says, is “a fairer deal for our people.”

His comments come as the lifting of the energy price cap increased average bills by 54%.

Incumbent candidate Struan Mackie, for the Conservatives, called fuel poverty “an injustice only made worse when millions in restraint payments are paid to developers when the grid is at capacity.”

Mr Mackie says he welcomes any initiative to address this injustice. However, he stresses that Highland energy is not restricted to renewables.

“I believe we need a balance of renewables, oil and gas as well as nuclear, a mix that would drive the cost of energy down and secure jobs in Caithness for generations to come.”

‘We must take urgent steps’

Independent election candidates Alexander Glasgow and Iain Gregory also welcome the proposal.

“I’d fully support this idea, with the caveat that networking with fund administrators is essential,” says Mr Glasgow. “We’d also need to avoid toe-stepping on stakeholder and community led groups, who are investigating action.”

Mr Glasgow also cautions against raising hopes of place-based discounts, which he says is not realistic.

Iain Gregory of the Caithness Roads Recovery campaign supports a quick response.

“Fuel poverty is widespread in the far north,  despite the Highlands producing vast amounts of renewable energy,” he says. “We must take urgent steps to deal with this anomaly.”

Fuel poverty has increased following the lifting of the energy price cap.

Liberal Democrat candidate Ron Gunn also says he would be happy to collaborate on an action plan.

“If elected I would certainly consider a cross party approach to anything that would benefit our area,” says Mr Gunn.

Impossible choices

Mr Rosie believes that joined up thinking and community action are key to making it work.

“Any other modern democracy would love to have the ability to take these measures,” he says. “We could help deliver a fair and reasonable deal that removes the absurdity of fuel poverty, which affects our communities to the extent that people are having to make impossible choices.”

The full candidate list for Ward 2, Thurso and North West Caithness is:

Alexander Glasgow, Independent
Iain Gregory, Independent
Ron Gunn, Liberal Democrat
Struan Mackie (incumbent), Conservative
Matthew Reiss (incumbent), Independent
Karl Rosie (incumbent), SNP

All candidates were approached for comment on this article.

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