Scotland is in “serious danger” of suffering power shortages over the next decade thanks to Alex Salmond’s “bonkers” green energy policies, the head of one of the country’s largest generators has warned.
Rupert Soames, chief executive of Aggreko, said Scotland’s lights will be “perilously close” to going out because a huge proportion of existing coal, oil and nuclear power stations are due to shut down over the next eight years.
He accused politicians of “holding hands and singing Kumbaya to the great green God” but warned the reality is it will be many decades before renewable energy can plug the gap left by traditional sources of power.
Unless Mr Salmond ends his ‘wishful thinking’ and draws up alternative plans, Mr Soames warned Scotland will be in “deep trouble” by 2018
But SNP ministers dismissed his claims last night and argued their target of generating 80 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020 was realistic, despite the cost and unproven nature of the technology involved.
Mr Soames, the grandson of Winston Churchill and brother of the Tory politician Nicholas Soames, was speaking at business conference at the Scottish Parliament.
Although his comments addressed an impending energy crisis across the UK, he suggested the problem is more acute in Scotland. The SNP has refused to allow the construction of new nuclear power stations north of the Border.
“How is Scotland going to react to the fact the national grid, on which we all depend, will lose 30 per cent of its generating capacity by 2013?” he asked delegates.
“We may wish the replacement to be wind, we may wish the replacement to be tidal but wishing isn’t going to make it happen and I think you have responsibly to have a Plan B.
“We have to move on from the days of holding hands and singing Kumbaya to the great green God or believing that Scotland is going to be the centre of the universe for renewables.”
The largest offshore wind farms are actually being built off the east coast of England, he said, which is closer to the major centres of energy demand.
Mr Salmond’s policies fail to recognise “the cold realities” of financing and engineering expensive new forms of green technology, Mr Soames continued.
He warned it will require Scottish politicians to display considerable leadership to “avert a very real energy crisis that will hit us in less than ten years time.”
“My concern is that not the long-term vision is wrong, but policy-making is so focused on the end of the road that you can’t see the giant pothole 300 yards ahead,” he said.
He mocked the ever-increasing climate change targets imposed by politicians – Mr Salmond’s original 2020 green energy target was 50 per cent – as they suggest “all this can be achieved without any consequences, no matter how bonkers the policy”.
Instead he argued the deadlines for existing targets should be pushed back a decade, adding: “We cannot live without electricity and even brief shortfalls would be catastrophic.”
A third of the UK’s energy capacity from coal, two-thirds from oil and nearly three-quarters from nuclear generation will end over the next eight years, he said.
“Without an immediate programme of building new power stations, with concrete being poured in the next two years, we will be in serious danger of lights going out,” Mr Soames said.
Without naming Mr Salmond specifically, he said anyone who believes nuclear power is dispensable and more than 10 per cent of energy will come from the wind, is talking “nonsense” and should be “banned” from formulating energy policy.
Similarly, he argued that it is unrealistic to believe that targets to cut energy consumption by 30 per cent by 2020 can be met, or that tidal power is going to make a “meaningful contribution” in the next 15 years.
Glasgow-based Aggreko is a FTSE 100-listed company and operates in 29 countries worldwide. Mr Salmond also spoke at the conference, but had left by the time Mr Soames made his address.
A Scottish Executive spokesman said the First Minister “is confident of meeting our targets for the industry, and with some 7GW of renewable electricity in Scotland in production, under construction or consented, we are well on track to exceed our interim target for next year.”
He highlighted a new £70 million fund for green energy announced by Mr Salmond last week, saying this demonstrated his commitment “to ensuring Scotland seizes the once-in-a generation opportunity presented by renewable resources.”
But Gavin Brown, Scottish Tory energy spokesman, said: “The SNP needs to listen to the CEO of one of Scotland’s most successful companies, a real energy expert, and find a credible policy for our energy needs.
“It is the SNP’s blinkered dogma which is threatening to turn out the lights across Scotland by refusing to consider continued nuclear power as part of the energy mix.”
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