I was pleased to read the editorial comment “Memo to Sturgeon”** in the Scottish Energy News this morning, correctly making the point about the level of expertise in the energy sector there is in Scotland and the vital contribution that can be made in meeting environmental targets, securing supply and fostering innovation for the future by industry and academia based in Scotland.
**See: Scottish Energy News 18 Feb 2016
MEMO TO NICOLA STURGEON, FIRST MINISTER: Let’s exploit the benefits of Scotland’s role as the world’s 21st-century ‘energy laboratory’
I absolutely agree that while, from time to time, it may be more comfortable to engage in ‘technology v technology’ debates, it is through meaningful collaboration and a shared approach that we have the best chance of meeting the multiple challenges in the energy sector.
However, one crucial element of the energy mix was omitted from your commentary, just a day after plans were announced that mean nuclear generation in Scotland will continue to contribute to our electricity production until 2030.
It is – too often – overlooked that there is a huge amount of expertise in civil nuclear sector located in Scotland.
Indeed, analysis of the Nuclear Industry Association’s annual jobs map publication indicates that after the north west of England, the second largest cluster of nuclear industry by population share is in Scotland, with close to 4,000 employed in the nuclear industry.
As well as the highly skilled jobs in operating both Torness and Hunterston and the decommissioning of other sites, there are leading manufacturers, including Glasgow’s Weir Group and Clyde Pumps, whose components are found in both existing power stations, and are contracted to provide high quality equipment for new build projects around the world.
Some of the leading nuclear advisory specialists are located in Scotland, and with Strathclyde University’s recently launched Advanced Nuclear Research Centre at the cutting edge of innovation, there is academic and research know-how as well.
Last year, one third of the electricity generated in Scotland came from nuclear power but more significantly still, nuclear, established hydro-power, newer onshore wind and solar together delivered three quarters of the power produced in Scotland – highlighting the possibilities in achieving a lower carbon mix with a balance of complementary technologies.
While it remains the case that at times when wind power is less productive, then the integrated grid enables power to come from England and Wales to Scotland to manage demand, the low carbon baseload power derived from Scottish nuclear power stations is an integral part of the current mix that is helping reduce carbon emissions and make electricity supply more stable, predictable and secure.
There will continue to be innovation and technological development, opportunities for industry to adapt, diversify and secure new work, and bright ideas that will make a contribution for the future – and much of that can, and will, I expect, come from Scotland.
Nuclear expertise is a key part of that potential, and should be a part of that collaborative effort you rightly highlight as the best route for an energy future that maximises security of supply while minimising carbon emissions.
Nuclear Industry Association