SNP MEP Hails EU Islands Energy Contribution – Scotland Opens EU Island Conference

10 October 2007
SNP MEP Mr Alyn Smith has hailed the success of EU island networks for bringing EU Energy policy to a point where it can deliver real benefits to islands.

Mr Smith was speaking at the annual conference of Islenet, the EU island lobbying network, of which many Scottish islands are part.

MEPs have called on the Commission to help fund massive increases ininvestment in new technologies and in inter-connectors of particular relevance to Scotland's islands.

MEPs have also criticised discriminatory connection charges which are holding back renewable developments in island communities.

Speaking from the Conference in Brussels Mr Smith said:

"I believe Scotland's islands have a great deal to gain by engaging in the energy debate in the EU, where the UK renewables policy is actively discriminating against Scotland's islands and Scotland as a whole.

"The Scottish Government and organisations like HIE are making this discrimination clear and we are hopefully seeing some movement from theUK.

"Scottish islands are among some of the best lobbyists in Europe and their presence here today, with their island colleagues from around Europe shows the central role Scotland can play in EU energy policy.

"MEPs have put forward a proposal to the Commission for real support for Scotland's island energy community. I sincerely hope when the Commission gets back to us it is able to endorse those proposals and give a real boost to Scottish island energy production."

During his speech, Mr Smith said:

"I'm always struck by how many islanders are so much more willing to come to Brussels than mainlanders seem to be, and I'm always glad of your input to our discussions here. Energy is a hot topic if you'll pardon the pun but I'm afraid that unless you keep up the pressure then the potential for Europe's renewable sector will turn into a load of political hot air.

"The EU does not lack legislation to encourage renewable energy, we have action plans, green papers, reports, regulations, directives and all the rest, and frankly if you took them all and set fire to them you would have a limitless energy resource! They are often ignored, rarely fit together and often conflict.

"But there is a real appetite here to create a coherent framework, and we all have a chance to win a glittering prize if we get that right. Islanders have the most to contribute and the most to gain. I say the most to gain because the energy debate could turn Europe upside down. Look at where people live, it is almost always where the energy reserves, chiefly coal, were available in the 18th century. Now, the future of the EU's energy is wave, tidal, wind, offshore wind, marine energy, biomass and others, and you have those in spades. Add to that teleworking and lower transport barriers and Europe's islands could have a glittering future.

"We're not there yet, but I hope we're doing our part. The report we adopted on 25 September set down a challenge to the European Commission to match our ambitions, and the report drew on the experience of working with islands and I hope I had some input to that through my work with CPMR and Islenet.

"The report stressed the importance of offshore wind energy as well as wave and marine, inter-connector capacity as well as market access, and the coherence of other EU legislation. It reads like a prescription for setting loose the renewable potential of Scotland's islands and I look forward to working with you to actually make that happen."