An energy expert has warned offshore wind power may be the “expensive luxury” Scotland can no longer afford.
Ian Marchant, the former chief executive of Scottish and Southern Energy, one of Britain’s biggest investors in renewable energy, fears for the future of the controversial schemes.
It will add to worries that offshore wind power, once hailed as the catalyst for reindustrialisation of Scotland, is grinding to a halt.
Mr Marchant, now chairman of renewables firm Infinis Energy,said that in 2008-9 at SSE, he thought offshore wind was a great opportunity.
But now he is warning that the sector has “over promised” and may never become the source of plentiful cheap, clean energy as expected.
Mr Marchant’s comments are a blow to Alex Salmond, who needs a big expansion of offshore wind power to meet his renewable energy ambitions.
At a seminar, organised by law firm Dundas & Wilson, Mr Marchant said: “I fear that it is an industry that over-promised and in the future may under-deliver.”
“The load factors are still high. There is industry collaboration, there are still employment possibilities. But maybe it is an expensive luxury.”
The industry, he said, faced a shortage of capital for the big costs of developing and constructing the mega-wind farms now required.
Back in 2009, the industry was confident it could get the costs of building and running an offshore farm down from £150 per megawatt-hour (MWh) to £100 per MWh.
He said: “There is no evidence we have moved in that direction and, in fact, there is evidence that we have moved in the opposite direction.”
Lindsay Leask, senior policy manager for Scottish Renewables, said that, while Scotland had all the ingredients to develop a world-leading offshore wind industry, there were significant challenges.
He added: “Uncertainty has grown throughout the sector as none of the major projects planned for Scottish waters has had planning applications determined yet and the details around accessing market incentives are still unclear.
“Keeping costs down remains a top priority as can be seen from a consortium of UK offshore wind developers who delivered a study seeking to reduce the costs associated with project design.”
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