Gas, oil, shale, nuclear and renewable groups lobby Holyrood MPs over security of Scotland’s energy supplies

Holyrood logoMPs on Holyrood’s Energy Committee have received dozens of learned and details submissions to its ongoing investigation into the issue of security of supply of Scotland’s electricity.

These range from submissions from supporters of full-on fracking and unconventional gas to equally full-on submissions in support of the status quo and the current environmental/ energy and planning regulation landscape, as well as those in favour of a Scottish nuclear ingredient in the energy supply mix.

The MPs on the  Scottish Parliament Energy Committee are investigating Scotland’s energy needs in a changing UK electricity market – focussing on the security of supply and four themes in particular: supply, demand, the transmission network and market functioning.

The inquiry was set up following the recent announcement of the now almost-inevitable near-future closure of Longannet coal-fired power station and the longer-term shutdown of the Scottish nuclear power plants at Hunterston and Torness as they near the end of their working lives.

Fossil fuels and renewablesOne of the most insightful submissions so far has been made by Professor Ian Arbon, spokesman on energy and environment in Scotland for the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

His response on achieving a balanced Scottish energy supply is  – in effect –  the same as the apocryphal answer from an Irishman when asked for directions to a particular destination by English visitors; “Well,… I wouldn’t start from here…”

Prof. Arbon said that Scotland is facing a difficulty with security of energy supply following the loss of more than half of its electricity generating capacity, and could benefit from more investment in combined heat and power schemes.

He said: “Looking at electricity in isolation is what got us into this mess – but for sure it won’t get us out of the mess and I think we need to look at security of supply at the 80%t of our energy that comes from fossil fuels and will continue to come from fossil fuels in the heat and transport sectors.

“I think unless we broaden the question and start looking at combined heat and power plants in particular, I think we’re just storing up enormous problems for ourselves.

‘Security of supply’ can either mean the rather simplistic notion of ‘keeping the lights on’ (a rather lesser issue than ‘keeping people adequately heated’), or ‘national security’, i.e. making best use of indigenous resources. It is not clear which is intended here and the solutions are very different.

 “Most of Scotland’s increasingly imported fossil fuel supplies are used in the heat (55%) and transport (26%) sectors, not in electricity generation. Even if 100% of electricity were to be generated from renewables, it would make little impact on reducing fossil fuel imports /  consumption.

“Integrated, whole-system thinking (as practised in Denmark) is essential in Scotland, is needed immediately and will include the need for considerably more energy storage both for electricity and for the heat and transport sectors.

“Electricity Market Reform is yet another example of considering the electricity market in isolation, while ignoring the much larger heat and transport markets. As noted above, the increasing electrification of heat and transport are likely to have a seriously destabilising effect on the electricity market which will seriously undermine issues such as competition and prices for consumers.

“However, a significant move towards distributed ‘integrated’ energy supply and demand systems will require a major shift in Government thinking and prioritisation.

“If the Government’s oft-repeated desire for much more ‘electrification of heat’ and ‘electrification of transport’ are achieved, then these will cause a massive increase in peak electricity demand, without any means of supplying that demand. The whole energy system must be considered at the same time, with particular focus on CHP; thinking only of electricity creates more problems than it solves.

The Energy Committee’s investigation will continue until the summer recess.

The following groups and/or individuals have submitted evidence to the Scottish Parliament Energy Committee investigation into security of Scotland’s energy supplies.

  • ABB
  • ABO Wind
  • Borders Network of Conservation Groups
  • Calor Gas
  • Centre for Energy Policy
  • Centrica
  • Cluff Natural Resources
  • Coal Pro
  • Brodie, D.S
  • Derek Birkett
  • East Lothian Council
  • EDF
  • Electricity Storage Network
  • Energy Networks Association
  • Energy UK
  • Jim Grant
  • Local Govt Heads of Planning
  • Inst. Of Mechanical Engineers
  • Inst. Of Civil Energineers Scotland
  • John Muir Trust
  • Mackay Consultants
  • Sir Donald Miller (former Chairman of SSEB)
  • National Grid
  • Scottish Power
  • Scottish & Southern Electric /SSE
  • Scottish Natural Heritage
  • Scottish Water
  • Vattenfall
  • Strathclyde University
  • RSPB
  • WWF
  • Friends of the Earth Scotland

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