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States to vote on tidal project

Posted Tue 4th November 2008 at 11:56

States members in Alderney will vote on whether to advance the island?s tidal energy project at their next meeting.

Alderney?s latest tidal power plans were outlined at a public meeting a week ago and included a proposal to grant a licence to developers which will allow them to generate electricity, build and operate a tidal power station, place specified equipment on the seabed and allow any electricity generated to be sold for commercial gain.

Project leaders Alderney Renewable Energy (ARE) signed an exclusive agreement with the States in 2005 which allows them to carry out oceanographic and tidal stream surveys and place power generating equipment and testing equipment there. The agreement also gives ARE first option to choose 50 per cent of designated blocks of sea in Alderney waters and a term of not less than 50 years to exploit tidal power.

The five-year term commenced in December 2005 but recent events mean the States is in a position to bring the project forward by two years, as Policy and Finance chairman Richard Willmott outlined in the November Billet.

Mr Willmott said: ?ARE now has a commercial partner, OpenHydro, which is a leading developer of tidal energy generating equipment. In the opinion of the Alderney Commission for Renewable Energy (ACRE) the company currently has the best technology for use in Alderney waters. ACRE is now satisfied ARE and its partners have the technical ability to deploy and generate electricity in Alderney?s waters.

?ARE has also been awarded an option to establish a connection to the French (Cotentin) grid which must be exercised by November 14 2008. If exercised, this will take up the remaining capacity presently available and likely to be available there within the next 10 years.?

Mr Willmott said Alderney must grant ARE master power generation and operating licenses in order to give them the opportunity to supply Cotentin.

?There is, of course, no point in generating electricity if there is no available market for it. The exercise of the option, and the subsequent expenditure on establishing the connection, requires substantial investment. That investment will only be forthcoming if ARE can also show it has obtained the master power generation licence/operating licenses, without which it cannot generate electricity to supply to the French grid through the Cotentin connection. Should this option fail to be exercised for any reason, ARE must re-apply and secure this requisite market or lose its rights under these licenses.?

Mr Willmott said the 2005 agreement had been overtaken by recent events.

?Since the purpose of the original conditions in the 2005 agreement have in large measure been overtaken by events, it is now proposed to replace the 2005 agreement with a new agreement and licence which is more appropriate to the current circumstances and which enables Alderney to remain at the forefront of the development of the tidal energy generation industry.

?By entering into a new agreement now, not only will ARE be in a position to secure the necessary connection to the French grid but revenue will also start to flow to Alderney two years earlier than it otherwise would have done and the exclusive right of ARE to Alderney?s territorial waters will cease.?

Mr Willmott says the new agreement will protect Alderney?s interests.

?The new agreement retains safeguards necessary to protect Alderney?s interests in the event that any of the planned events do not happen, either at all, or within specified timescales. In such circumstances the agreement will be terminated and Alderney will be free to enter into fresh negotiations with alternative operators.?

The new agreement, according to the Billet, will establish ACRE as a statutory body and enable its commissioners, Gordon Fitton, Pamela Dixon and John Antill, to be formally appointed.

The new scheme will increase the exploitation period from 50 to 65 years and, as before, give ARE the option to select 50 per cent of Alderney?s waters, for which it will be bound to pay an annual licence fee of 345,00 (7,187.50 per block).

The licence fee will eventually be replaced by royalties, which will become payable in respect of electricity generated in due course. Royalties will be expected from the outset, although actual payments, with interest, may be deferred for up to 18 months. Once royalties are due, these will be paid at the rate of one per cent of the gross price received by ARE for the electricity generated.

Mr Willmott said Alderney should expect to have all 96 blocks developed within a quarter of a century and outlined a contingency plan should ARE fail to fulfil the requirements under the agreement.

He said: ?It is intended that all the blocks will be fully developed within 25 years. The continuous and complete development of the blocks is a requirement of the agreement. Accordingly, the agreement provides for a development schedule. In the event that ARE fails to fulfil the requirements of this it will pay royalties on the amount of electricity that should have been generated had the block been developed in line with the development schedule.?

The tidal energy issue is the only subject on November?s Billet. It will be debated by the States on November 10 on what will be the final monthly meeting before the end of year elections.

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