Energy Minister Jim Mather states that Scotland is on course to meet it’s renewable energy targets (Letters, November 20). For those in government who set these targets, this must be gratifying. For those who must foot the bill, it is a matter of concern.
Mr Mather quietly sidesteps the astronomical cost of what he proposes. For example, assuming the 2.1GW of onshore wind thus far installed in Scotland operates at 30% capacity, renewables obligation costs of £37 per MW-hour have already led to a bill of more than £200m per year for consumers.
However, this pales in comparison to the cost of the much larger 11GW of offshore wind to be installed in Scottish waters, as advocated by Mr Mather and others. The offshore wind deployment will require £30bn of capital and up to £57bn in renewable obligation payments over the 20-year design life of the plant. For the best part of £90bn, we will receive only 20 years of fluctuating electrical energy.
For a fraction of the cost of offshore wind, we could secure a compact, carbon-free nuclear base load capacity with a useful 60-year design life. Assessments of full life-cycle costs by professional engineers clearly demonstrate that nuclear (6-8p per kW-hour) is significantly cheaper than coal with carbon capture (10-16p per kW-hour), and vastly cheaper than offshore wind (15-21p per kW-hour) and can be comparable with low carbon gas (6-11p per kW-hour).
The fuels of the future are likely to be methane, uranium and an appropriate use of renewables where the market can support it. In Scotland, we are betting the farm on renewables. I sincerely hope that Mr Mather’s unquestioning enthusiasm pays off. If it does not, we will saddle ourselves and our economy with extremely expensive energy for years to come.
Colin R McInnes, Netherlee, Glasgow.
Jim Mather defends the SNP’s position on not building new conventional power plants in saying: “By 2008, Scotland was producing 11% of its consumption from wind.”
His own Government’s figures, available on Scottish Energy Study: Volume 1: Energy in Scotland: Supply and Demand, show “renewables” make up 11% of Scottish electricity generation. However, what this omits is that this is all renewables, undifferentiated and that for decades hydro power has made up 10% of our power.
Certainly rain has not ceased, thus much of the 11% he claims must still be hydro power, probably 10% of it. I hope next year the Government will give figures in more detail but, in any case, 1% is not enough to keep the lights on when Holyrood has voted unanimously to close 42% of CO2 generating power within 10 years. Combined with the nuclear closure, that is half of all electricity. Just 1% of power produced by wind turbines does not inspire confidence that it can replace 50% within 10 years and suggests Rupert Soames is being optimistic when he says we face blackouts if we are not “pouring concrete” for practical plants “within two years”.
Just 1% also seems a poor return for spending £1bn a year subsidising renewables. That would be enough, through our tax-varying powers, to cut everybody’s income tax by 3p – or at least it would have been had the SNP not decided, while claiming its failure to improve the economy is because it needs “more powers”, to give away the real power we have but which it has been feart to use.
Neil Craig, Glasgow.
Jim Mather, despite being Energy Minister, showed he has not fully grasped the significance between energy consumption and the characteristics of the means to satisfy it.
The carbon capture and storage facility to be installed at Longannet will reduce the net output by more than 20%. This amount of energy could be matched by a further 650 or more wind turbines but their output would not be as useful as it would not be available on demand, being dependent on wind conditions.
A greater dependence on renewables, most of which are intermittent in nature, depends on building and maintaining the means to store large amounts of energy, and this did not feature in his list.
The alternative is greater reliance on importing power from elsewhere to cover our erratic supply situation. Most likely, much of this will come from the increased nuclear capability that more rational administrations are now planning.
Sandy Henderson, Braco.
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