Monday, March 07, 2011
Scotland's renewable electricity target for the next decade is being raised from 50 per cent to 80 per cent, First Minister Alex Salmond announced today.
The FM confirmed the Scottish Government's increased national target - now 80 per cent of Scottish electricity consumption to come from renewables by 2020 - ahead of a major international conference in Edinburgh next week to help accelerate investment in the growing low carbon economy.
Scotland's existing target was established in 2007 and, aided by a rapid expansion in wind power, the country is on course to exceed its interim target of 31 per cent in 2011.I have previously shown this table of Scotland's electricity production
Back when I thought the intention was "only" to destroy half our power I referred to Holyrood's unanimous decision to do this over the next 10 years as "clinically insane". This is far beyond such lunacy.
Cutting out 100% of the nuclear (purple) and thereby most of the pumped storage which is largely pumped up by nuclear power during the night) plus gas and coal (light blue and grey) would leave our current hydro and windmills at about 9GW. If that is to be 80% of power we might be allowed another 2.25 GW of coal and gas. A total of 11.25 GW instead of the 50 we currently use, so we will lose 77.5% of our electricity. This obviously takes no account of periods, such as during the December freeze when windmills provided only about 0.2% of our power for several weeks. In periods like that we would be down to 7 GW, 14% of current power. It is known by every person competent to be in government that electric power correlates closely with national wealth so the SNP deliberately intend to cut our GNP by 77% over the next 9 years - which means continuous recession of 15% per annum until we are the coldest and most northerly 3rd world country.
I make our net exports about 9,000 gigawatthours or about a fifth of our total production of 50,000 gigawatthours.
I’m less concerned about the size of the B2 interconnector. Flows tend to be North to South as Scotland exports power (see above) and the interconnector is being upgraded. There are also interconnectors planned / in production between Scotland and Ireland and the option of an interconnector between Scotland and the Netherlands or Nordpool remains.
We’re loosing a significant proportion of our coal production as it is opted out of the Large Combustion Plants Directive so we need new build of some sort by 2016-2020 regardless of technology. It might as well be renewables as coal. Also of note is that some of the gas plant in Scotland is not running at full capacity because it is often constrained off by weaker interconnections in Scotland and the presence of baseload generation in the Central Belt.
I’m not sure your point about cutting nuclear implying cutting pumped storage quite stands up in a world where we have acres of windfarms.
There are opportunities for energy efficiency (including meeting our share of the EU 2020 20% target on energy reduction). Specifically on your point on the link between energy consumption and national wealth there are things that can be done to improve the efficiency with which we turn energy into wealth by improving the value added of our services and manufactures.
On a grubby political viewpoint there are labelling tricks that can be played (and I’m sure will be). Simply by labelling all our exports as nuclear or coal and any imports as renewable we can meet (for a value of meet) some of our target without changing anything in real life.
80% by 2020 is a big ask. Perhaps too big on ask but I don’t think it is a suicidal as you suggest.
I would tend to assume that our contracts to supply electricty abroad, particularly to Eire would not allow us to cut them off preferentially but I don't know. Ireland is, if anything, in an even worse situation than us, though with no nuclear to lose and I don't see Netherlands and its neighbours being in a much better situation.
Windfarms are, theoretically, equal with nuclear for providing pumped storage power. Nuclear works at 100% all the time and wind averages about 25% but since neither are variable they will, on average, produce the same proportion of power at inconvenient times. However since nuclear produces so much more than wind it will have proportionate importance for working storage.
Your point about fiddling classification is true - about 5% of Britain's power comes to the south of England from France and ceases to be nuclear as soon as it lands. Personally I would be happy if our leaders were to notice that nuclear can be renewed for billions of years (& is effectively CO2 free) and should thus be classed as renewable, but I am not optimistic that our politicos are grubby enough to do so.
Energy efficiency does something but, by definition, anything done for that purpose will cost and thus make us uncompetitive with the rest of the world. Britain already has the largest ratio of GNP to electricity production of any large developed country http://a-place-to-stand.blogspot.com/2008/06/having-done-my-nek-figures-for-75.html so I assume we are already suffering from considerable economic drag from that. To maintain our GNP of 1/5th as much power would mean doing as much with 1kwh as the world averages with 16. I do not think that is remotely possible.
What it comes down to is can acres (well thousands of square miles) of windmills provide nearly as much power as a few acres of nuclear plants; can they do it at less than 10 times the cost; can they be completed in 9 years; and can they supply it reliably when cold weather strikes. I think the answers are probably not; no; no & hell no.
Pump storage is just that - surplus energy using water as a battery. It does not rely on Nuclear, excess wind, or wave or tidal does fine thanks. Oh and SSE are planning another 2 gig of Pump Storage above Loch Ness in the next few years. They are not basing this on new nuclear……
Do you actually read anything about future energy in Scotland? There is about eight gig of off-shore wind consented around Scotland, planned to be installed by 2020. Off-shore wind is not your flabby feeble on-shore stuff, its reliable and predicable - the two Beatrice deep water turbines near Wick run at 70% efficiency - pretty near Thermal.
Oh and there is wave and tidal – areas where Scotland is a world leader, and remember that Tidal is predicable (duhhh) and tides operate at different times around the Scottish coast (duhhhhh) and that there is a time lag of five days on average between windy weather in the North Atlantic (when of-shore wind farms work really well) and lots of stormy seas, when wave devices work really well. (A wee tip – there is already 1.5GW of wave and tidal consented in the Pentland Firth and Orkney waters, to be operational by 2020 – that’s the size of Peterhead Power station).
The basic fact is that the further North and West you go in Scotland the better the wind, wave and tidal regime is. Shetland Wind farms – yes useless on shore ones – operate at 51% efficiency. Nuclear over its 50 year life in Scotland is not much better than that.
Oh and if we only have 9 years left to replace existing thermal what’s in the pipeline? About six gig of wind, wave and tidal – all consented, all in the Utilities investment plans, and all ready to provide Scotland with an economic boost not seen since the oil and gas days of the 70’s and 80’s.
Not much evidence of Scottish Utilities screaming to build new nuclear is there, and certainly not in the next 9 years.
For the future of Scottish Energy, look to Germany's BARD 1, it was finished over a year ago but has only provided power for a few days.
Scotland seems to be about ten years behind the rest of the world in understanding renewable energy, my prediction is that an independent Scotland will follow the route of Spain and Greece, wasting money they don't have on big promises for renewable energy subsidies. When the bill comes due politicians like Salmond will be laughing all the way to the bank and long out of office.