Alex Salmond’s drive for wind power would severely damage an independent Scotland’s finances by creating a “very expensive foreign aid programme for England”, an energy expert has warned.
Paul Younger, professor of energy engineering at the University of Glasgow, said wind turbines tend to generate the most electricity at night when demand is low.
He predicted a separate Scotland would have little choice but to sell its excess energy generated at these times to England at “knock down prices”.
But Scotland may suffer power shortages during the day when turbines are least active, forcing it to buy nuclear-generated electricity from south of the Border “at top price”.
Prof Younger said this is precisely the situation in Denmark, which also went “all out for wind” but now has an “abysmal” balance of payments with neighbouring Germany thanks to its energy policies.
His intervention came after it was confirmed that the lifespan of Hunterston B, one of Scotland’s two nuclear plants, is to be extended by seven years to 2023.
The site generates enough power to supply about half of Scotland’s homes but SNP ministers have blocked the construction of a new generation of nuclear plants north of the Border.
Instead, Mr Salmond has set a target of generating the equivalent of all the country’s electricity from renewable sources by the end of the decade.
But Prof Younger told the BBC’s Newsnight Scotland the “complete smorgasbord” of energy types is required to meet demand and Scotland’s two nuclear plants provide a constant “base load” of electricity compared to the fluctuations of wind.
He said Denmark sells its excess wind power to Germany but warned: “It tends to blow in the middle of the night a lot of the time when nobody wants the power. When you sell power in the middle of the night, you sell it at knock down prices because nobody wants it.
“So what happens in Denmark is the balance of payments is abysmal because when they are really desperate for energy they buy back, ironically, nuclear-generated power from Germany at top price.”
He concluded: “That’s the danger of going down the route that Scotland is pursuing at the minute. We might end up as a very expensive foreign aid programme for England.”
Citigroup, one of the world’s largest banks, last year warned that the average annual household energy bill in an independent Scotland would increase by £875.
Green energy currently relies on subsidies paid by all 27 million UK households and 4.5 million businesses but the bank warned English and Welsh taxpayers would be unlikely to continue funding schemes in a “foreign country”.
Scottish bill payers would then be forced to find the entire £4 billion annual cost of the subsidies needed to make wind and wave farms north of the Border economically viable.
A Scottish Government spokesman said renewable power was a “secure and reliable” source of energy that industry regulator Ofgem has agreed would be required to “keep the lights on” in England.
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