A “yes” vote for Scottish independence will “slam the brakes” on investment in wind farms north of the border, leaving Alex Salmond’s green energy ambitions in tatters, experts have warned.
The Scottish National Party set a target in 2011 of generating the equivalent of 100pc of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
The construction of a series of giant wind farms off the Scottish coast is central to its plans.
But analysis published on Monday by Bloomberg New Energy Finance warns that investment in such projects will stall if Scotland votes for independence, as current subsidy schemes are ripped up and companies await the outcome of what could be years of negotiations over how the projects will be financed.
Billions of pounds in subsidies for renewable energy projects across the UK are currently shared by all bill-payers, but Ed Davey, the energy secretary, has warned that this will not continue if Scotland votes for independence.
Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said: “A ‘yes’ vote would be likely to slam the brakes on the Scottish renewable energy sector.”
He told the Telegraph that independence would “absolutely render it impossible” for Scotland to meet the SNP’s 2020 target because of inevitable delays while subsidy systems were redrawn.
“You’d have two, three, four years of negotiations. That takes us through to 2017-18 and there’s just not enough time to build it after that, even if there’s a good outcome that gives Scotland a great framework,” he said.
Ministers have suggested that Scotland could even be forced to pick up the tab for existing Scottish wind farms, adding as much as £189 a year to household bills because the number of wind farms in Scotland is disproportionately high compared with its population.
Mr Liebreich said he did not believe that Westminster would in fact pull the plug on subsidies for existing projects because it would be too damaging to investor confidence for the rest of the UK too.
But it would certainly want to renegotiate the terms on which it bought renewable energy from any future Scottish projects, heralding a period of uncertainty in which investors would take their money elsewhere in the world. “Divorce is a painful process,” he said.
BNEF says there are 5.7GW of wind farms that have been permitted in Scotland, equivalent to $12bn of investment, and a further 11.3GW that have been announced or are in planning.
Projects in doubt would include SSE’s proposed 664MW Beatrice offshore wind farm, which was awarded a subsidy contract by the Government in April but is still awaiting a final investment decision.
Alex Salmond has said the SNP’s 2020 plan involves the country “generating twice as much electricity as Scotland needs – just over half of it from renewables, and just under half from other conventional sources”, allowing it to export as much electricity as it consumes.
The SNP has argued that there should remain a single GB power market post-independence and suggested England would risk blackouts without access to Scotland’s “huge energy resources”.
But BNEF found that England and Wales have “limited dependence on Scotland for power”, importing less than 4pc of net electricity consumption from Scotland in 2012.
“Scotland may be more reliant on England and Wales as a customer than they are on Scotland as a generator,” it said.
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