A nuclear row over Scottish energy policy has broken out in Holyrood with the Conservatives urging the Scot-government to accept atom power has a place to play and that relying entirely on renewables is unrealistic.
The row ignited after an Oxford University energy expert said Scot-Government plans to rely 100% on renewables is unrealistic and that Scotland would continue to rely on coal, nuclear and gas-generated electricity for some time to come.
Prof. Dieter Helm – a long-standing support of nuclear power – said in an article published in a London-based publication: “(First Minister) Salmond has talked about 100% renewables for Scotland. Well, it’s nonsense. Wind is intermittent by definition.
“You have to ask a very simple question; even if you wanted to do this, what are you going to do when the wind doesn’t blow?
“The truth is Scotland relies on baseload nuclear power, coal and gas to balance its system and it will have to for a very long time to come. Full stop.”
Conservative party energy spokesman, Murdo Fraser, MSP – who is also Chairman of the Scottish Parliamentary Energy Committee – said: “Everyone agrees renewables can have a place, but to suggest Scotland could become completely reliant on them is unrealistic.
“And if aggressively pursued, this could risk energy supplies across the country.
“With a change of First Minister it’s time for a change in energy policy.
“The current obsession with windfarms not only won’t work, but jeopardises the scenic value of many parts of Scotland.
“The Scottish Government should listen to the views of this world-renowned energy expert.”
The nuclear/energy policy row came on the same day that one of the UK’s biggest windfarm companies – Infinis Energy – announced that its half-year profits had sagged by more than 8% because of falls in wind speeds needed to drive its turbines.
In the six months to the end of September 2014, Infinis’ earnings before operating exceptionals were £59.1 million – a fall of £4.8 million on last year – principally driven by below average UK wind speeds.
Infinis chairman Ian Marchant, said: “Whilst wind speeds trended below average for the six months to 30 September 2014 compared to the comparative period, we are starting to see more usual weather patterns occur in the United Kingdom.
“We remain convinced of the important role that onshore wind has to play in UK energy supply. Onshore wind delivers renewable power at affordable prices and, we believe, it has an important role to play in securing the nation’s supply of power.”
Marchant, formerly chief executive at Scottish & Southern Energy plc, is also chairman of the Scot-Government’s 2020 Climate Change body.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government’s target is to deliver the equivalent of at least 100% of gross electricity consumption from renewables by 2020 as part of a wider, balanced electricity mix.
“Statistics published in September estimate that renewables met a record-breaking 46.4% of gross electricity consumption in 2013 – up from 39.9% in 2012.
“This shows 2014 is on track to be another record year for renewable electricity generation in Scotland, with 30% higher generation in the first half of 2014 compared to the same period last year, demonstrating that renewable generation continues to go from strength to strength in Scotland and we are making good progress towards our 2020 targets.”
Meanwhile, Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing yesterday hosted a meeting in Holyrood on safety at Scotland’s nuclear power stations – Torness, near Edinburgh and Hunterston, North Ayrshire following unplanned reactor shutdowns, which prompted a parliamentary question from Green MSP Alison Johnstone.
Presentations were made by management representatives from EDF – the state-owned French utility which owns the Scottish nuclear stations – and from the UK Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR).
Brian Cowell, Director of Nuclear Operations, Hunterston-B nuclear power station Director Colin Weir, and Torness nuclear power station Director Paul Winkle gave a presentation from EDF Energy.
They spoke about EDF nuclear operations in Scotland, the key way route cracks found in one of the reactors at Hunterston B power station, a gas circulator issue at Hunterston B power station and the application to SEPA on waste discharges from both Hunterston and Torness.