By Bob Duncan
The Scottish Conservatives have called for a pause to wind farm development in favour of fossil fuel and new nuclear power stations, despite record investment in Scottish renewables.
The party also called for an end to the “march of the wind farms” as part of a policy review of future energy needs in a newly published report, which the SNP has described as “bizarre”, claiming it would increase costs for businesses and put up consumer’s electricity bills.
Tory MEP Struan Stevenson said: “The march of the wind farms under Alex Salmond and the SNP has to be brought to a halt. The figures are quite stark.
“The thousands of turbines in operation, being built or in the planning stage, mean that Scotland will easily overshoot its electricity target.”
The policy shift comes on the back of new figures published by a renewable industry body that show for the first time that £165 million has been invested by Scotland’s offshore wind developers in the country’s economy.
Scottish Renewables asked its members developing offshore wind projects in Scottish waters how much they had invested in the sector to date. The results showed that £164.5m of investment has been made with a significant proportion, £65m, being invested in 2012 alone.
According to an industry spokesman, 2012 really fired the starting gun for large scale offshore wind development in Scotland with projects representing more than 4GW (Gigawatts) of potential installed capacity, enough to power 3 million homes, entering the planning system.
Speaking ahead of the Offshore Wind and Supply Chain Conference in Aberdeen this week, Lindsay Leask, Senior Policy Manager for Offshore Renewables at Scottish Renewables, said:
“This level of investment, made in advance of their projects gaining consents, shows the considerable level of confidence developers have in Scotland’s offshore wind sector. Most of this current investment has been made in research, such as environmental surveys, technical engineering surveys and project demonstration.
“However, this flow of private finance is also generating huge opportunities for the supply chain, and once consents for projects are granted this will both motivate new entrants and strengthen those existing companies who are already reaping the benefit of diversifying into this emerging sector.”
The Tory policy review recommends the introduction of a system that would see wind energy producers paid twice as much money to generate power south of the border than they would receive in Scotland – putting Scotland’s economy at a disadvantage.
It also calls on the Scottish government to give ‘more’ support for Carbon Capture & Storage projects, despite responsibility for these schemes currently being solely reserved to the Tory-led Westminster coalition Government.
The Tories have repeated calls for resources to be diverted away from renewables and into far costlier new nuclear power stations, in line with the current policy of the coalition government.
However, the price of electricity will have to at least double to underpin a new wave of nuclear reactors in the UK, according to people close to negotiations between the government and energy industry, report the FT.
Companies need a price of at least £100 per megawatt hour – more than double the present wholesale power price of about £41/MWh – to justify the huge investment needed in new nuclear plants, they say.
They Scottish Tories have also called for greater reliance to be placed on the generation of power using traditional fossil fuels.
Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser, convener of the Scottish Parliament’s energy, economy and tourism committee, said taxes should be favourable to North Sea oil and gas.
“As we can see from the experience in the US, the exploration of shale gas and coal-bed methane has the potential to raise billions of pounds, resulting in reduced energy bills,” he said.
This has led the SNP to accuse the Scottish Conservatives of turning their back on jobs and investment for Scotland with what they called “the Tory’s confused and hypocritical approach to Scotland’s energy future”.
In October last year First Minister Alex Salmond announced a new goal to meet half of Scotland’s electricity demand from renewable energy by 2015.
This followed interim figures, published last year, which showed that the Scottish government is ahead of its target to generate 100% of Scotland’s electricity needs by 2020.
SNP MSP Chic Brodie who sits on the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee said:
“The Tories acceptance that Scotland will meet our ambitious renewable energy targets is a step forward, but all the announcement of their so-called ‘energy review’ does is confirm that they are still ludicrously out of touch with the needs of people in Scotland.
“Scotland’s renewables industry has huge potential particularly offshore and is helping to bring in investment and create jobs.
“It says nothing for the Tories’ business credentials that they want to drive wind energy producers out of Scotland by making it more profitable for them to operate south of the border.
“With figures today showing £65m has been invested in offshore wind over the last year alone, it is clear that the Tories’ plans would damage Scotland’s economy and drive up household bills.
“It is ridiculous that Tory MSPs are happy to personally profit from windfarm development, whilst their party tries to deprive the rest of Scotland of the economic benefits that could come.
“The Tories preference of nuclear power is only possible with eye-watering levels of subsidy attached, either from taxpayers or through consumer power bills. With new nuclear energy actually set to cost the public significantly more per megawatt than wind energy, the last thing that people need in these difficult times is to be lumbered with the bill for a Tory nuclear white elephant.
“Far from being an ‘energy review’, it seems that the Tories have simply reaffirmed their commitment to the kind of wrongheaded nonsense that has gotten them into the position they are in with the Scottish electorate.
“Instead of throwing away the opportunities that our enormous renewable resources offer us as the Tories seem to want, the SNP Government is bringing jobs and investment into Scotland’s economy by supporting the growth of the thriving green energy sector.”
The report also coincided with demands by Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson for restrictions to be placed on where wind generators can be sited.
Speaking yesterday, Ms Davidson said: “It is not fair that anyone should have to live in the shadow of a turbine. The SNP may think it’s acceptable to plaster the countryside with windfarms but the least it could do is offer some quality control on the policy.
“Invoking the 2km limit would simply be enforcing the rules that are already there.”
A Scottish government spokesman said Ms Davidson’s claims were “thoroughly confused” and added: “The Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Tourism committee has agreed that our targets are achievable and far from approving every application, we support two thirds of local decisions on windfarm applications – whether they are for approval or rejection.
“We provide clear guidance on the location of wind turbine developments including excluding any in our national parks and ensuring that many communities in Scotland are now able to benefit financially from the renewable energy resources in their area.”