A RENEWABLES developer has called for a public local inquiry into the refusal of planning permission for a pumped storage hydro project at Loch Ness and said they will cite local and national benefits in the midst of a “climate emergency”.

ILI Group said it wanted the inquiry after the Highland Council’s planning committee twice rejected its Red John development.

Pumped Storage Hydro allows the grid to store energy that cannot be absorbed naturally by consumers during times of peak wind or solar generation.

Under the ILI plan, an upper reservoir would be built allowing water to travel between it and Loch Ness through huge tunnels with an underground turbine room but a substation above ground.

It said that because of the size of the project, it fell under the remit of the Energy Consents Unit (ECU) at the Scottish Government to make a final decision.

Mark Wilson, CEO of ILI Group, said: “Unfortunately the planning committee have raised an objection for the second time. This was against the advice not only of the council planning department, but also the roads department, SNH, Sepa and Historic and Environmental Scotland who all raised no objection to our proposal.

“This now means we will take the proposal to a public local inquiry and we have informed the Energy Consents Unit accordingly.”

Wilson said storage was critical to the further development of renewable energy in Scotland as wind a solar were intermittent, but could provide constant power when backed up by storage.

“PSH will play a critical role in this, as it does elsewhere in the world, and given the history of hydro power in the Highlands, we are obviously disappointed by the response from some Highland councillors.

“Locally this project will create nearly 400 construction jobs over the five-year construction period. We are confident the PLI will see the local and national benefits of the project and look forward to presenting these.”

Brian Wilson, a former UK energy minister, said there had to be back-up to the intermittency of renewable generation, and the project created a huge opportunity for UK industry and the Scottish supply chain.

He said: “Pumped storage hydro – which provides 95% of storage around the world – is the obvious answer in Scotland, instead of relying on imports via interconnectors.

“This is an opportunity to give an established technology a new lease of life with huge potential benefits for the Scottish economy while at the same time helping to solve the inescapable challenges posed by reliance on renewable generation.”