Call for Scots firm linked to orangutan row to be barred from renewable leases

Campaigners at Mighty Earth want the Scottish Government to declare Red Rock Power as ‘unfit’ to bid for renewable leases.

Campaigners fear the impact the Batang Toru dam will have on critically-endangered orangutans
Campaigners fear the impact the Batang Toru dam will have on critically-endangered orangutans (Michael Holmes/PA)

Campaigners are calling for an Edinburgh-based firm to be excluded from future rounds of renewable leasing amid concerns about the impact a project by its parent company is having on critically-endangered orangutans.

Mighty Earth has written to Scottish Net Zero and Energy Secretary Mairi McAllan claiming that Red Rock Power is “unfit” to bid for new wind farm leases until its parent company ends a controversial dam project.

The Chinese State Development and Investment Corporation (SDIC) is currently building the Batang Toru dam in Indonesia, with the project said to be sited in the heart of the rare Tapanuli orangutan’s natural habitat.

With no more than 800 of the creatures left in existence, the Tapanuli orangutan has been described by the World Wildlife Fund as the most endangered of all great apes.

Mighty Earth last year pressed Scottish Government ministers to intervene on the issue as Red Rock Power, a subsidiary of Beijing-based SDIC Power, owns and operates wind farms in Scotland.

In the wake of that, the then biodiversity minister Lorna Slater wrote to Red Rock Power.

Mighty Earth is now calling on Holyrood ministers to bar the Edinburgh-based firm from bidding for renewable leases in Scotland until SIDC “abandons” the dam project.

Nick Cullen, Scottish campaign lead for the pressure group, said: “Scotland’s urgent renewable energy transition can be delivered without benefiting corporations that pose a threat to global biodiversity and human rights.

“Red Rock Power will remain unfit to bid for new wind farm leases until its parent company, SDIC, abandons this dam project and the Tapanuli orangutan’s survival is secured.”

He added that the campaign group welcomed the “Scottish Government’s strong stance on this ill-conceived and unnecessary dam, built across the little remaining habitat of the Tapnanuli orangutan”.

Mr Cullen said Mighty Earth would now “seek to work with Scottish ministers to ensure profits from future renewable licences don’t go to corporate groups involved in damaging projects around the world”.

He claimed such a stance would “secure widespread support across the Scottish Parliament”.

It comes after Red Rock Power unsuccessfully submittted a bid as part of the 2021 ScotWind leasing process – in which applicants were only required to confirm that they have not been “convicted of unlawful activity in relation to corruption, bribery, human trafficking, and a number of other activities, within the last five years”.

Andi Muttaqien, of the Indonesian NGO Satya Bumi, which has been campaigning against the Batang Toru dam, said he never expected the issue would “become a focus of attention in Scotland, 7,000 miles from Indonesia”.

He said: “This has now become a truly global issue and international attention is essential if we are to make progress on protecting the Tapanuli orangutan, alongside all the other species and habitats this project threatens.”

Conservation scientist Professor Erik Meijaard described the

Tapanuli orangutan as being the “most endangered great ape species in the world”.

Speaking about the species, he said: “It only survives in about 5% of its historic range, mostly under ecological conditions at higher elevation that are not optimal for its survival.

“Recent analyses show that deforestation by mining, dam development and smallholder agriculture is ongoing, and particularly affecting the ecologically more valuable lowland parts of the species’ range.

“With only a few hundred individuals remaining, there really is no room for error and all efforts should be made to halt this ongoing ecocide.

“That must include stopping all major developments and reversing the impacts these have had on Batang Toru’s forests. Scottish businesses should indeed have no role to play in the extinction of great apes.”

Scottish Government spokesperson said:  “The design and administration of the Scotwind leasing round was undertaken by Crown Estate Scotland, which manages the Scottish Crown Estate, including the leasing of Scottish seabed rights.”

Red Rock Power has been contacted for comment.