In all the flood of questions unleashed by Alex Salmond’s desire to see Scotland withdraw from the United Kingdom – what about the Armed Forces, the flag, the Queen, the £11 billion given to the Scots annually by English taxpayers? – one issue has gone unnoticed. Last year, Mr Salmond hubristically pledged that 100 per cent of Scotland’s “gross electricity consumption” will come from renewable sources by 2020, supplied mainly by the thousands of wind turbines he wishes to see covering Scotland’s hills and seas. He even boasted that these windmills will produce so much power that they will “help to keep England’s lights on”.
At the moment, I gather from the “Scottish government”, Scotland exports on average some 1.2 gigawatts of electricity to England, mostly generated by nuclear and coal-fired power stations, which Salmond wishes to see closed down. But within eight years he wants to see these replaced by 16GW of renewable “capacity”, which should generate all the 4.5GW of power Scotland itself needs.
As we all know, however, the problem with wind is that it doesn’t permanently blow at the right speed to generate the power needed. There might be times when Scotland could export large amounts of wind-generated electricity to England. But these would be counterbalanced by all the times when, to keep its own lights on, it needs to import even larger amounts of power from England – generated by the kind of conventional power stations that Mr Salmond so scorns.
As hypocrisy, this is bad enough. But Mr Salmond omits to mention the further anomaly arising from the ludicrous subsidy system for wind energy. Onshore wind farms receive a 100 per cent subsidy on top of the market rate for their electricity; for offshore this is doubled to 200 per cent. So Mr Salmond’s green dream implies that Scotland will sell large amounts of inordinately expensive electricity to England, at about two to three times the going rate, while to keep its own lights on it will buy very much cheaper power from England. In other words, he is hoping to pull off an astonishingly advantageous deal, which might soon net Scotland a profit amounting to billions of pounds.
We can already see the absurd situation such green dreams can bring about in the case of Denmark, which has more wind turbines per head than any country in the world, generating on paper the equivalent of 20 per cent of the power it uses. But, wind being so variable, as much as 80 per cent of the electricity produced has to be exported cheaply to Norway, forcing the Danes to import power from Germany at prices which have made Danish electricity the most expensive in Europe.
Mr Salmond hopes to get round this difficulty by selling his own “green electricity” at exorbitant rates to the hated English, while relying on them to supply cheap electricity whenever the wind fails him. Whether he can pull off such a trick is another of the questions that needs to be resolved before Scotland is allowed to float off into his dreamworld where it joins the euro and lives happily ever after, in a land made even more beautiful by 1,000 square miles of windmills.
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