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Weekly Update, 21st February 2011

I participated in the second round of meetings with the two consortia bidding to become the next PBO at Dounreay. The meeting (facilitated by the NDA) was chaired by John Thurso MP, and allowed members of both bid teams to pass on some thoughts following our first set of meetings back in November, at which local representatives outlined their views on the economic and socio-economic challenges and opportunities for the area. The formal dialogue process continues over the coming weeks, and an announcement on the successful bidder is expected in late November this year, with the new contract taking effect in April 2012.

Programme activities:

Marine Energy:
The Partnership’ s Advisory Board met this week, and heard a presentation from representatives of Scottish & Southern Energy on the work underway and being planned to deliver an electricity Grid network to support the transmission of power from renewable energy from the Pentland and Moray firths in particular. There is a potential planning, consenting and construction programme over the next 10 years in the north, and a total cost of up to £1bn. It was agreed that the economic opportunities from this programme alone were significant. Work on one key enabling element started this week at the Dounreay sub-station, as the Dounreay-Beauly power line is upgraded.
Advisory Board members also heard from Wick Harbour Authority about the ongoing investigation work to develop Wick harbour’s capacity to benefit from marine renewables.

The Partnership’s Executive Board also met this week, and discussed progress with delivering the Action Plan. Some discussion took place on ideas aired during the “onshore visioning” process carried out over the past few months with Highland Council, HIE, Scottish Government and the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment. In particular we agreed that further investigation wiould take place into ideas such as Enterprize Zones, and the establishment of mechanisms (financial and non-financial) to support partner efforts to attract energy and business services opportunities.

Tourism, food & drink:
Along with colleagues from HIE, DSRL and Caithness Chamber of Commerce I had an introductory meeting with Tom Campbell, the new Chief Executive of the North Highland Initiative. This was a good opportunity to discuss common aims and to get an understanding of the developing role of the NHI and its three constituent elements (North Highland Tourism, North Highland Products and North Highland Connections). A number of positive ideas came out of the meeting in areas relevant to the CNSRP partners’ work.