Energy & Business services:
• Crown Estate Scotland has announced that following last September’s Contracts for Difference auction, which demonstrated a sharp fall in the cost of offshore wind electricity, it will now consult industry and government on further leasing rounds for offshore wind. Marine Scotland will lead a planning process to identify potential new sites, which will include both fixed and floating offshore wind. http://www.crownestatescotland.com/maps-and-publications/download/159 There are currently two consented offshore wind sites in the north – the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm and the Moray Offshore Windfarm, whilst a floating offshore wind site off the north coast of Caithness has also been the subject of interest. Also this week a group of industry players has issued a report that calls for a UK Government commitment to build around 1GW of floating offshore wind by 2025, and for a potential “sector deal” for this developing sector. http://renews.biz/110471/uk-should-set-5gw-floating-goal/
• It has been fascinating to see that -with Aberdeen harbour closed due to prevailing sea conditions – Thurso Bay has today (Friday) been busy with oil & gas supply vessels looking for port services. And today’s A9 has been busy with freight carriers moving equipment up to and down from the port. Hopefully a sign that Scrabster is indeed a natural mainland point from which to do west of Shetland business.
• CNSRP partners Highland Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) announced this week that a partnership bid for £4.7M funding from the UK Government’s Local Full Fibre Network Challenge Fund had been successful. The bid, made in partnership with University of the Highland and Islands, NHS Highland and Scottish Natural Heritage, will offer the opportunity to build ultrafast “Gigabit capable” fibre networks in Inverness, Fort William, Thurso and Wick using public sector “anchor” buildings/ organisations, as well as offering Gigabit Vouchers for local businesses wishing to enhance their connectivity. The Highland bid was the only one of the 13 successful bids to come from Scotland in the first round of this programme, and following due diligence should result in the delivery of full fibre networks by 2020/21. More on the background to the Fund is at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/661364/Challenge_Fund.pdf and you can read the Highland Council’s press Release at https://www.highland.gov.uk/news/article/10915/47m_boost_for_highland_digital_connectivity
• And on a related theme, Scottish Government has announced a programme to “infill” areas with no 4G mobile connectivity. An initial 16 sites are being targeted, but up to 70 sites could be identified for masts through the programme. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-43371719
• The regional board of the Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) initiative met this week. DYW is managed by Caithness Chamber of Commerce, which provides an excellent link between young people and the business community. This meeting focused on updates on the work being done in the area (including very successful engagement events), and also then considered plans for a potential three further years of activity. More on the DYW work is at http://www.caithnesschamber.com/projects/developing-the-young-workforce
• Caithness Chamber of Commerce also manages the Caithness Transport Forum, which met last week and heard updates from a range of local, regional and national organisations. It was good to hear from Marco Bardelli at Transport Scotland that progress continues to be good with the procurement of the contract to deliver the A9 Trunk Road enhancement at Berriedale Braes. It was also good to hear that Transport Scotland will be reviewing availability of parking places on the A9 between Inverness and Caithness. This section of trunk road is used by both road freight and tourism traffic, so enhancements will be welcomed.
As part of an ongoing process of helping communicate progress with the delivery of aspects of our economic transition programme CNSRP’s partners work together to generate news stories for local, regional and national media. I also speak on a regular basis to individuals and organisations across the area to update on progress. This week:
• At a time when cyber security has never been more important, it is great to see that Caithness company Envision has become the first in the Highlands to achieve accreditation through the “Cyber Strong” programme being delivered by HIE. Well done Liam and team for demonstrating the company’s cyber resilience! http://news.hie.co.uk/all-news/caithness-company-leads-the-way-to-a-cyber-strong-region/
• In the week that renowned scientist Stephen Hawking passed away, the Caithness International Science Festival got underway with a launch event in Wick. This will be perhaps the biggest Festival in the event’s long history, and will feature returning speakers such as former NASA astronaut Duane Carey. For more information on the Festival’s programme of events see http://science03.org/ . On a related theme I have previously mentioned that HIE’s Area Manager Roy Kirk was invited to present an update to members of the Highland Council’s Sutherland County Committee on the subject of the work being done to examine the potential to establish a facility for the launch of small scale satellites from a site in north Sutherland. You can now read the Northern Times coverage of the discussions at the meeting – https://www.northern-times.co.uk/News/One-giant-leap-for-economy-of-Sutherland-01032018.htm