Competition for contracts is fierce with 190 projects bidding for a slice of the 30-40 MW capacity on offer. Pressure group SCRAM (the Scottish Campaign to Resist the Atomic Menace) believes the order to be between ten to 20 times oversubscribed. According to SCRAM, early stages of the bidding process have brought applications for projects totalling over 360 MW in utility Hydro-Electric's area alone. In addition, Scottish Power says applications in its area of central and southern Scotland are "well in excess of the anticipated cap." SCRAM criticises the government for awarding contracts for electricity from renewables on a competitive basis. It calls on Ian Lang to put community involvement above cost when projects are selected under the SRO.
Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, the province's first 15 MW NFFO is nearly five times oversubscribed. Around 45 applications for renewables contracts totalling about 70 MW declared net capacity are understood to have been bid. Ten of these schemes are believed to be wind energy projects, accounting for around 40 MW of capacity, with the remainder being made up of hydro, biofuels and energy from wastes.
The 45 final bids were whittled down from an original 64 schemes, totalling 80 MW. Unlike the rest of the UK, where projects are appraised by the Office of Electricity Regulation (OFFER), Northern Ireland projects are being evaluated by Northern Ireland Electricity. NIE has already said it looks forward to seeing only a very modest obligation as far as the first NFFO tranche is concerned. The utility expressed its concern about the higher cost of generating electricity from renewables last July when details of the Northern Ireland NFFO were first announced. It said then that the cost of implementing the order could be as high as £6 million a year.
After ranking the bids in price order and commenting on their ability to secure the obligation, NIE will pass the tenders on to Northern Ireland's Department of Economic Development for a final decision. Contracts were due to be awarded March 31 and be operative from April 1. With far fewer bids to be considered than in the rest of the UK, the timetable for the Northern Ireland NFFO has been much tighter than for the NFFOs for England, Wales and Scotland. Northern Ireland is working towards a government target of 45 MW of new renewable capacity by the year 2000.