Household energy bills in Scotland would increase “substantially” after independence because England would be under no obligation to buy its wind power, the Energy Secretary has warned.
Ed Davey told a conference in Edinburgh the cost of Scottish renewable energy subsidies and infrastructure is currently spread across 26 million homes across the UK.
But he warned that after separation this would be borne entirely by households north of the Border and “basic arithmetic” dictated that the average bill would have to increase markedly.
SNP ministers claim that England would need to buy green power from Scotland “to keep the lights on” but Mr Davey made clear it could as easily be purchased from the Republic of Ireland or even Scandinavia.
The Energy Secretary warned that UK ministers would no longer be under any duty to consider the interests of Scotland and repeatedly challenged the SNP to spell out its energy policy.
Although he welcomed Alex Salmond’s ambitious green energy targets, he said they were only affordable thanks to the UK-wide single energy market, which would disappear after separation.
Mr Davey said the Government will publish a series of papers next year examining the benefits to Scots of being part of the UK, one of which will provide more detail on the increase in energy costs after separation.
“But it’s logical that bills will go up and we’re not talking pence. We’re talking significant amounts,” the Energy Secretary said.
“The subsidy comes through consumer bills at the moment so England, Wales and Northern Ireland would be faced with a question about where they bought their energy from.”
He was speaking after appearing at an energy conference organised by the Scotsman newspaper alongside Fergus Ewing, the SNP Energy Minister.
In his speech, Mr Ewing repeatedly claimed England would be forced to buy a separate Scotland’s wind and wave power to meet demand and its green energy targets.
He highlighted a clause in the UK’s new Energy Bill, published by Mr Davey last month, stating explicitly that renewable power could be purchased from other countries.
But Mr Davey said this merely illustrated there are “other options” than Scotland and highlighted a recent meeting he held with Pat Rabitte, his Irish counterpart.
A memorandum of understanding is now being drawn up about importing energy from the Republic of Ireland to the UK.
“They would have to send it somewhere and they are thinking they might want to send it across the Irish Sea. I’m surprised he (Ewing) picked it up because I don’t think it helped his argument,” Mr Davey said.
“We’re looking at interconnectors with places like Denmark and Norway and elsewhere. So I’m afraid the idea there’s only one place England, Wales and Northern Ireland would go is simply not the case.”
He refused to speculate on what would happen to Scotland’s renewable energy industry without the remainder of the UK buying its power.
Mr Davey also denied SNP claims the UK had “squandered” North Sea oil taxation, saying some had been invested in state pension funds and accusing the Nationalists of presenting the revenue as “free money that we’re somehow setting fire to.”
Sir Donald Miller, the former chairman of Scottish – Power, has previously estimated that the SNP green energy targets would see bills rising by an average £194 per year after separation.
But Mr Ewing told the conference: “Ed’s thesis is English consumers won’t pay for it. My thesis is there’s mutual dependence – England needs our energy and we need their consumer demand.
“I think there’s a tacit of admission of this in the Energy Bill. The argument and principle had already been won.”
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