Sturgeon demands more support for wind power but confusion grows over Scotland’s long term energy future
Nicola Sturgeon has appealed for more UK Government funding for windfarms off the Scottish coast – as new figures showed renewable energy provided just five per cent of the country’s electricity at the end of last year.
The First Minister said sustained support for offshore wind production was required to bring the price down.
Speaking ahead of a visit to the giant Whitelee wind farm, near Glasgow, she warned the UK’s budget for offshore wind was insufficient to support the development of the industry in Scotland.
The UK Government last week announced the results of its latest auction of contracts for new green energy projects.
Eleven of the 27 winning schemes were in Scotland, including the planned Neart na Gaoithe offshore wind project in the Firth of Forth.
However, two offshore wind schemes in the North of Scotland, which could not promise such cost effective electricity, lost out and will re-apply in the next Contracts for Difference auction.
Ms Sturgeon said onshore wind power was now cheaper to produce than nuclear power, but only as a result of sustained investment from public funds.
Citing the success of the Firth of Forth scheme and a proposed Scottish Power project off the coast of East Anglia in the latest bidding round, she said: “These projects demonstrate the value of developing this industry: real jobs, clean electricity and valuable contracts for suppliers.
“The UK Government must now show greater ambition for the Scottish offshore sector.
“It is essential that the UK Government provide confidence to the offshore wind industry that sufficient money will be available in future allocation rounds to allow the sector to move forward with assurance and enable costs to be further reduced.”
The call came amid renewed speculation over Scotland’s long term energy supply, as 55 per cent of the country’s generating capacity is due to be lost within a decade.
Ms Sturgeon yesterday highlighted figures showing renewable sources provided 44 per cent of Scotland’s energy needs last year.
However, new figures from National Grid, obtained by Labour’s energy spokesman Tom Greatrex, showed the level dipping dramatically on some days.
On Boxing Day last year, just one per cent of Scotland’s electricity came from green power sources. Between December 25 and 28 it accounted for five per cent.
According to the National Grid figures, Scotland is also importing electricity from England much more frequently than in the past, with power flowing south to north on one day in every six.
Scotland’s reliance on England, during periods when the wind does not blow, will become even greater when Longannet power station in Fife ceases production.
The giant coal-fired station is due to close by 2020 at the latest as part of the UK’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but it emerged last week it could shut as early as next year if the cost of hooking it up to grid is not reduced.
Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Politics show yesterday, Scottish Government energy minister Fergus Ewing said Scotland needed a “balanced mix of supply,” including a new gas power station or a coal-fired power station that could be coupled to carbon capture technology to eliminate emissions.
However he was unable to give a clear timescale for developing new facilities.
Mr Greatrex, the MP for Rutherglen, said he would support the construction of a new nuclear power station in Scotland if an energy firm applied to build one after the ageing Hunterston and Torness facilities reached the end of their lives in 2023.
He said: “We have an increasingly unbalanced energy mix in Scotland and if we were not part of a GB system we would be in trouble.
“The SNP’s energy policy is based on hype over fact.”
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