Although there is little interest south of the border in the lacklustre campaign for next month’s elections to the Scottish Parliament, something so odd is going on there that it has implications for us all.
Fired by the fashionable obsession with global warming, the Scottish parties are all vying to see who can make the most extreme promises about how much Scotland should rely on renewable energy. The Labour-led Scottish Executive is already pledged to produce 40 per cent of Scotland’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020, twice the target figure, set by the EU, to which Britain as a whole is signed up.
At present, the Executive claims, nearly 12 per cent of Scotland’s energy comes from “renewables”, almost all from large hydro-electric schemes built in the 1950s. To raise that to 40 per cent can only mean a massive increase in wind turbines.
Scotland now has around 640, providing barely 2 per cent of the country’s power. Even if all the 6,000 turbines currently proposed get built, they would only generate around 3,300 megawatts of electricity, equivalent to the output of the power station at Didcot in Oxfordshire. This would leave a huge shortfall when, within a few years, Scotland loses three nuclear and coal-fired power stations, which currently produce well over twice that much energy.
Even on paper, to reach that 40 per cent target would require at least 8,000 giant turbines, many as tall as 400 feet, covering 2,000 square miles, equivalent to 7 per cent of Scotland’s total land area. Other parties go still further: the Lib Dems want Scotland to be totally dependent on renewable energy by 2050.
What none of these politicians appear to have grasped is that – unless they are happy for Scotland to return to the age before electric light, computers and Tesco – they will also need to build enough conventional power stations to provide back-up for the three-quarters of the time (averaged out) when the wind is not blowing at the right speed to generate electricity. Since none of them seem prepared to countenance replacing the country’s two existing “carbon-neutral” nuclear plants, that will mean new coal and gas-fired stations, running 24 hours a day to cover for those unpredictable moments when the wind decides not to blow. In other words, all that destruction of a unique landscape with thousands of heavily-subsidised turbines will not reduce Scotland’s “carbon footprint” at all.
The politicians are so carried away by this idiocy that they still insist that schemes such as that to erect 181 giant turbines on the island of Lewis, on which the Scottish Executive has the final say, have popular support. Yet Allan Wilson, Scotland’s Deputy Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning, recently had to admit that, of 11,546 representations so far received by the Executive, only 59 were in support of the Lewis scheme, with 11,397 against.
The fact is that the Scottish people – as opposed to their politicians – are waking up to the realisation that wind power is one of the greatest hoaxes of our age. But, lest we feel insulated from the tragedy about to befall the Scots, we must recall that this is only a more extreme version of a collective self-deception which now has almost all our politicians in its grip.
By Christopher Booker
7 April 2007
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