By Jack Thomson
Ed Davey, the UK Energy Secretary, has confirmed the SNP and Green view that Scotland’s renewable resources are critical if England is to meet its renewable targets.
Mr Davey made the admission at the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference in Inverness.
In a speech to delegates at the weekend, Mr Davey said: “Meeting our renewables target of 15% of energy by 2020 for the UK is a tough task already. If England has to do it for itself, by itself, it will probably be even tougher, given Scotland has relatively more renewable sources.”
Mr Davey went on to say that that having English consumers will help the development of the sector and that Scotland’s renewable industry needed the English market.
He added: “… the economics of renewables is that Scotland needs English consumers to help pay for the renewables, as the technology develops.”
The admission that both nations will benefit from Scottish renewables will be seen by some as an acknowledgement that England’s current reliance on Scotland in order to fill the ‘power black hole’ that currently exists south of the border will continue after independence.
It is also a blow to opponents of Scottish independence who claim that England will somehow opt to decline Scotland’s cheaper, cleaner and more reliable energy and gamble with more expensive and riskier European imports.
Scotland’s renewable credentials were further reinforced when Mr Davey’s leader, Nick Clegg insisted he wanted to see a Green economic renaissance in Scotland.
Mr Clegg appeared to cast doubt on colleague’s claims that uncertainty was hitting green energy investment in Scotland and added:
“Hundreds of millions of pounds of investment just in the last few months alone have come into Scotland, producing hundreds in fact thousands of jobs.”
First Minister Alex Salmond has already insisted that Scotland is on target to produce the equivalent of 100% of our energy needs through renewables by 2020. It is hoped that Scotland will be in a position to export over half the electricity it generates with a north-sea connector opening up markets in Europe.
Speaking last year, Mr Salmond said: “Because the pace of development has been so rapid, with our 2011 target already exceeded, we can now commit to generating the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s own electricity demand from renewable resources by 2020.
“By then we intend to be generating twice as much electricity as Scotland needs – just over half of it from renewables, and just under half from other conventional sources. We will be exporting as much electricity as we consume.
“So we will continue to work with industry and governments at local, UK and European level to build on what we have achieved. We will now move still further and faster to secure our place as the green energy powerhouse of the continent of Europe.”
Despite Mr Davey agreeing that both countries need each other to tackle climate change, some of his coalition colleagues continue to suggest that independence would somehow see the energy hungry English market cut-off from her nearest neighbour and investment dry up.
However investment bank Altium Securities rubbished these claims in a report towards the end of last year. The international finance firm predicted investment in Scotland’s renewable energy sector would continue, whatever Scotland’s constitutional future, including under independence.
Recently the eight Governments in the British-Irish Council agreed an All Islands Approach (AIA) to energy production that would safeguard the current power infrastructure and supply. The Council includes Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.
SNP MSP Rob Gibson has welcomed comments from a former UN Human Rights High Commissioner that Scotland is “leading the way for all countries” in climate justice.
Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and President of the Mary Robinson Foundation Climate Justice (MRFCJ), has written in today’s Herald newspaper that Scotland is “championing climate justice” and it has “an enviable record in tackling climate change, and is clearly benefitting economically”.
She also says Scotland has “shown the way forward” by introducing legislation and targets aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The comments follow a historic debate in the Scottish Parliament last week when Stewart Stevenson, Minister for Environment and Climate Change, confirmed the SNP will meet its manifesto pledge to launch a Climate Justice Fund.
Mr Gibson, SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, said:
“Scotland is moving forward with a strategy aimed at helping those living in the world’s poorest communities affected by climate change.
“This has been recognised by Mary Robinson with these very welcome comments.
“She praises ‘Scotland’s commitment to championing climate justice’ and how, as a country, we are ‘leading the way for all countries’.
“The SNP firmly believe Scotland, like many other countries, have a responsibility to help those who are least equipped to responding to the devastating impact climate change can have.
“That is why we are meeting our manifesto pledge by launching a Climate Justice Fund.
“We are placing human rights at the heart of global development – and will strive to continue for climate justice across the world.”