Electricity bills will rise by at least 58% if the UK Government is to meet its renewable energy target within the next eight years, according to an industry expert.
Sir Donald Miller, who spent a lifetime as an engineer in the power industry, rising to chair both the South of Scotland Electricity Board and ScottishPower, warned the cost to households would increase by that amount if ministers were to meet their tar-get of 30% or more of electricity coming from renewable sources by 2020. It would mean the average annual electricity bill of £489 for Scottish homes would go up by £283.62 to more than £773 a year within the next eight years.
The more ambitious Scottish Government target of generating the equivalent of 100% of Scotland’s own electricity demand from renewable resources by 2020 would mean even greater rises in household bills, he warned.
Sir Donald calculations are contained in his submission to the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee’s inquiry into the Scottish Government’s targets.
The former engineer, who favours a mix of energy sources including nuclear, also claims Scottish Government targets imply a four-fold expansion of wind power in Scotland, offshore and on land, within a period of eight years, but counsels: “This seems unlikely and not least because of resistance to a proli-feration of wind farms onshore.”
He believes the conduct of planning inquiries into wind farms is bringing the Scottish planning system into disrepute and points to growing evidence based on experience in the United States and Ireland that high levels of interruptible generation, such as wind, produce much smaller savings in CO2 emissions than had been thought.
Sir Donald’s calculations on power prices to domestic cus-tomers are based on figures and reports from the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). They include a 38% rise as a direct result of the renewable energy subsidies, as well as extra transmission costs, the provision of and inefficient running of back-up plants, VAT, and a further 20% for the carbon levy and other DECC energy policies.
Sir Donald said that assuming 90% of these extra costs will eventually appear in our cost of living and household bills, in addition to the 58% increase in domestic electricity bills, the final increase in household bills is almost beyond calculation and that is without taking account of any higher costs from the Scottish Government’s 100% target.
He also challenges the belief that marine energy constitutes a vast energy resource and cites work from eminent consulting engineers, saying: “As for marine energy [tidal and wave], the belief this constitutes a vast untapped energy source around our shores results from a failure to understand the physics. The greater weight of water [compared with air] is offset by the even lower tidal and wave velocities so that, marine energy is also a low-intensive energy source, not very different from wind.”
However, Niall Stuart, chief exe- cutive of Scottish Renewables, said: “There has been a tremendous amount of debate on energy costs with renewables wrongly being blamed for the sharp rises in household energy bills.”
Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: “These claims are wrong. Low-carbon energy benefits the environment, creates jobs, and will lead to lower household bills. Analysis from the UK Government predicts that pursuing low-carbon policies would make the average energy bill 7% lower in 2020 when compared to carrying on with business as usual.”