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Monday, December 16, 2013

White Paper - Scotland's Energy Future

       My latest article now up on ThinkScotland - please put any comments there. It is part of a series Brian has run on the SNP's white paper.

   The entire energy question is covered in Chapter 8 of the White Paper entitled "Environment, Rural Affairs, Energy and Resources" which is reflects the degree of priority given to energy, despite the fact that energy use is pretty much identical to gdp.

    They boast "Between January 2010 and April 2013, industry has announced £13.1 billion of investment with an associated 9,100 jobs" which, at £1.44 million per job would not be that wonderful even if Verso Economics had not previously proven that for every "Green" job created 3.7 jobs in the non-subsidised economy are destroyed. Add the decision of Scottish Power to pull out its previously announced intention to invest in a Hebridean windfarm, and many other recent cancellations of windmill projects and even that promise looks improbable.

    In fact none of this £13.1 billion would have been on offer were it not that wind energy is getting a 200% subsidy. The Scottish government has not only already promised we will be 100% renewable by 2020 but every major conventional power generator is intended to close before 2020 except:

Longannet, coal, 2.4 GW, opened 1972, The station is expected to continue operating until approximately 2020-2025, because of the technical advancements in place at the station. These include the station's low NOx burners, its NOx reburn system

Hunterston B, nuclear, 1.288 GW, opened 1976, Hunterston B was originally planned to operate until 2011. In 2007 planned operation was extended by 5 years to 2016. In December 2012 EDF said it could (technically and economically) operate until 2023.

Torness, nuclear, 1.344 GW, opened 1988 It is expected to operate until 2023

 Peterhead, gas, was 1550GW, opened 1980, UK Peterhead power plant Unit 2 likely to close
* 660 megawatt Peterhead Unit Two likely to close
* Peterhead transmission capacity down to 1,180 megawatts - undated but clearly current. Peterhead has also not got the Westminster £1bn subsidy for carbon capture that Holyrood wanted and was listed by Jim McDonald as one due to close before 2030.

  We are building no new large capacity generators. We will soon have none.

   Windmills simply cannot provide baseload because they are intermittent, even the government funded lobbyists, Scottish Renewables accept this..

   So how will the power be kept on?

   Despite the 100% renewable promise the paper promises incentives to provide "renewable and thermal", which looks like 2 incompatible promises but I am assured there is an explanation.

    The big question is how Scotland can afford to be 100% renewable when everybody accepts  wind is more expensive. Particularly when we are assured not only that Holyrood will oppose fuel poverty but that they will have a statutory duty to end fuel poverty.

     This is how:

    "This Government proposes that a single Transmission Operator will continue to balance supply and demand across Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Following independence, Scottish renewable energy will continue to represent the most cost-effective means for the rest of the UK to meet its renewable ambitions. The continuation of a system of shared support for renewables and capital costs of transmission among consumers in Scotland and the rest of the UK is a reasonable consideration for meeting the UK's ongoing green commitments."

    The rest of the UK will continue to subsidise our windmills.

    They are honest enough to say that this is simply what the SNP "proposes" but it is clearly insane. Nobody can guarantee that England will continue to elect governments willing to pour subsidies into a foreign country. But having admitted it is only a proposal there is no plan B should the English electorate decide otherwise.

      Bear in mind that Ofgen have already said they expect electricity bills to rise to £3,000 a year across the UK by 2020 when the UK will not yet have reached its target of 30% renewable, Scotland, with its 100% target would, on our own, clearly be well beyond impossible without English subsidy. Ignoring the question shows them to be, at best, unfit to hold any responsible job.

      Actually its worse than that - because wind is intermittent, and particularly likely to be missing when it is cold, we will would need their help to keep the lights on in any case and irrespective of cost. Indeed either way we will need to strengthen the cross border interconnector either to sell as much of our spare windpower ass promised or to bring in enough of their conventional power at need.

      The paper also guarantees that £70 of the energy levies will be transferred to tax. With 2 million Scots households an 2/3 of power use being non-domestic that comes to £420 million - 1.3p on income tax or some equivalent, both unspecified. This and other spending promises for an independent country look to be adding about 20p to income taxes or equivalent. I await hearing of their equivalent.

Oil & Gas

  The long prophesied Oil Fund gets another mention but since no promise of how much will go into it, or when it may safely be ignored. Good thing since that money is currently being spent.

  I found this interesting remark about gas "Scotland is also estimated to have the second largest volume of proven gas reserves in the EU after the Netherlands" The key word being "proven" which allows them to ignore shale gas though it is orders of magnitude more than conventional gas and the UK may be the European leader. Most shale is in northern England but there is enough under Scotland's central belt that, per capita, a separate Scotland would not lose out. Or at least would not lose out unless we decided to. But the SNP have promised ever more regulation to prevent it being.

    Grangemouth was saved because the owner decided to bring in US shale gas (which costs 1/3rd of what ours does) to process, but this is like carrying coals to Newcastle in that we could be getting this gas from Fife.

   Another interesting omission is under decommissioning. This is about getting England to pay for decommissioning of oil rigs. The omission is any mention of decommissioning nuclear plants, Over the decades the government have taken over £40 million from the nuclear industry to be held by them in a "decommissiong fund" - in fact no such fund exists or it would, accounting for inflation and interest, now be worth well above £200 billion. It is out of character that they don't stake a claim to a disproportionate share of this and I think it is evidence of their blank spot over nuclear rather than any goodwill.


     I am not trying to say that Scotland cannot afford separation. A Scotland favourable to economic freedom, willing to allow us to have shale gas and nuclear power at a market price would undoubtedly be far wealthier than the current UK. Hinkley Point is to cost 4 times more than an equivalent European built project in China and almost equally important for investor returns, will take 10 years rather than 3 to complete, entirely due to government parasitism.

      Then again so would such a UK. The problem is that the SNP not only don't want that, it is obvious from this document that they cannot even conceive of such an option. Nor, from the criticism from the other parties and our mainstream media, can any of them.

      Which brings me to my last extract from the paper:

"If we form the government of an independent Scotland we will:
  • seek to enshrine environmental protection in the constitution. With independence we will have the opportunity to enshrine protection of our environment in the proposed written constitution for Scotland"
  I'm of the old fashioned view that the purpose of a constitution is to limit the power the state has over us, rather than the EU style one, that it is to give judges and those in power more power over us and limit our power to object. This is very much of the latter sort. It says what government can do and even what we cannot object to the state doing. No wording is given but there is difficulty in concluding that it would say, or after a few years interpretation would be deemed to say, that we mortals have no right to object to anything the ecofascists claim is necessary. Ultimately even that nobody not willing to claim to see catastrophic warming (or whatever the next eco-scare is) at every hand, could stand for election. Holyrood did vote for the world's most restrictive Climate Change Act and did so with Soviet style unanimity - how many of them would object to it being enshrined in the constitution to keep future generations restrained too?


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