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Plea for north pylon scheme to be halted over net-zero statistics

By Alan Hendry

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Some of the action group Dunbeath/Berriedale Community Say NO to Pylons before this week's public meeting in Dunbeath village hall. Picture: Alan Hendry
Some of the action group Dunbeath/Berriedale Community Say NO to Pylons before this week's public meeting in Dunbeath village hall. Picture: Alan Hendry

The electricity transmission company planning a 400kv pylon line through the north has been urged to "call a halt" to the scheme after claims about the reliability of statistics underpinning the UK's net-zero ambitions.

At this week's public meeting organised by Dunbeath/Berriedale Community Say NO to Pylons, representatives from SSEN Transmission were told by a member of the audience that the "industrialisation of the Highlands" should stop until climate change advisers have "got their facts straight".

Alison Ellerington was referring to recent media coverage suggesting that key net-zero recommendations by the Climate Change Committee were based on only a single year of climate data showing the number of windy days. The committee advises the UK and devolved governments on emissions targets.

Reports quoted Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith, an emeritus professor at Oxford University who led the committee, as saying it had "looked at a single year" of data and "conceded privately that that was a mistake”.

SSEN has argued that the 400kV overhead line between Spittal, Loch Buidhe and Beauly is needed to meet renewable targets set by the UK and Scottish governments.

Miss Ellerington asked the panel to consider that net-zero might be "based on insufficient evidence – just one year's worth of weather".

She said: "My question is, would you do the right thing and just call a halt to all of this industrialisation of the Highlands, at least until everybody has got the right figures and got their facts straight?"

Greg Clarke, head of corporate affairs at SSEN Transmission, responded: "We do not decide the targets. The targets are set by governments and they're set by the advice that they receive from their own experts.

"Where the renewable generation is located is equally not decided by us as the transmission owner. Our job is to provide connections to our network to any type of generator or user of the system who asks us to connect them to our network.

"We have an obligation under our electricity licence to provide those connections and, where there is a requirement to build infrastructure, to then transport that power to where it's needed – that's something that we are required to do.

"I can't really answer questions about the political and policy decisions that have been taken by both the UK and Scottish governments. To all intents and purposes, we're a delivery body to deliver the infrastructure that's needed to meet their targets.

"I'm sorry I can't really give an answer to whether or not we can stop this. That's not within our gift."

Miss Ellerington countered: "You're happy going ahead with whatever they tell you, knowing that the facts are wrong?"

Mr Clarke said: "I don't know the facts are wrong. You might have a report that suggests they're wrong. I'm sure there will be a counter-report.

"If you look at all of the evidence globally of the impact that climate change is having, there is general consensus that we need to electrify our economy.

"I can't comment on behalf of the Climate Change Committee.

"I would be very, very, very surprised if our governments at both Westminster and Holyrood would be willing to accept targets that are based on such a limited piece of evidence."

Dunbeath/Berriedale Community Say NO to Pylons is a subgroup of Berriedale and Dunbeath Community Council.

Community council chairman Angus MacInnes, who chaired Monday's meeting in Dunbeath village hall, suggested there was a need for a public inquiry to look at "how energy is generated, transmitted and consumed in the UK".

He said: "I found it incredible that you would go on one year's worth of weather to come up with net-zero and these targets."

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