Salmond: Renewable marine energy will still make ‘Scotland the Saudi Arabia of tidal power’ – despite ‘Brex-odus’ of EU skilled workers in Brexit ‘madness’

Alex Salmond, former First Minister of Scotland
Alex Salmond, former First Minister of Scotland

In a wide-ranging keynote speech at the Renewables After Brexit conference at Dundee University, former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond identified three main threats to Scotland’s renewable energy sector after Brexit; namely; –

  • The Brexit ‘Brex-odus’ brain drain of skilled EU workers
  • The nuclear folly of building a new atom power plant at Hinkley Point, and the
  • ‘Deeply-embedded’ and long-standing Tory party opposition to Scottish renewables

He said: “I’d love to claim the credit for being the father of Scotland’s renewables but that kudos really belongs to a former Dundee MP, Tom Johnston,  who as Scottish Secretary during the second world war, brought ‘power to the glens’ by leading the hydro power investment by a number of means  – including using powers of compulsory purchase from the artistrocratic land owners who he had earlier savaged in his ironically-entitled book, ‘Our Great Scottish Aristocrats’.

“While Scotland’s First Minister, I arranged to have a portrait to Tom Johnston to be hung in my official reception room at Bute House (in Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square)

“He provided me with inspiration to show that the people of Scotland can overcome a powerful and vocal opposition – then as now – almost invariably led by the Tories and/or Scotland’s land-owning aristocrats

“In the past 10 years, of the SNP’s Scottish renewables policy, we’ve gone from generating less than 20% of our electricity to more than 100% on some days – which is a renewable energy transformation similar to the hydro-power transformation in the Glens.

“It is entirely possible to pick ‘winners’ in government – not in terms of individual companies, which is a matter for markets, but certainly in terms of which sectors are likely to succeed – and Scotland’s renewables sector was a no-brainer in economic terms.

“Not only does Scotland have vast wind, wave and tidal power resource potential vastly exceeding its population size (25% of onshore wind and 10% of EU wave power resources) but it was obvious that that cost of wind powered electricity was going to come down in pretty short order, and that its price-competitiveness would increase equally rapidly

“You didn’t have to be a genius 10 years ago  to see the huge comparative environmental and economic benefits that renewable wind-powered (and now, prospectively, offshore wind and tidal powered) electricity could bring to Scotland’s economy

“While onshore wind was opposed every step of the way by Tories, the SNP Scottish Government made maximum use of the powers we have to considerable effect – just look at the outcomes which include the £2 billion Beatrice wind farm in the Moray Firth, the Eday hydrogen-fuel project on Shetland, and Atlantis Resources’ Meygen tidal turbine development in the Pentland Firth.

“Of course, we’re not there yet, by tidal power will develop and will become more cost-competitive – just like the wind-ustry cost of energy curve – and Scotland can (still) be the Saudi Arabia of tidal power.

“Yes, of course, we should have onshore wind farms across Scotland and yes, of course, we should have massive offshore wind farms off Scotland.

“The Tories in England are scared of onshore renewables in the shires, but in Scotland we did – and should continue – to play our national natural resources to our own economic advantage.”

As an example of what Salmond said is ‘deeply-embedded’ Tory opposition to Scotland’s renewable energies, he cited the BP Millar carbon-capture plan.

Had this been funded as a ‘wind farm’ for ROC purposes  – instead of being rejected by the Tory UK government – Scotland could now be operating the world’s first commercial hydrogen fuel station in Aberdeenshire.

“And,” added Salmond,, “a hydrogen fuel station would help bring hydro-carbons more fully into the Scottish renewables energy revolution.

“DECC (the British government energy department, now called BEIS) never liked the fact that we <the SNP Scot-Govt> had the ability to set our own ROCs – a power which Theresa May quickly grabbed back when she abolished DECC.

“There are Three Big Lies in the modern world. The first one is the well-known phrase, “The cheque’s in the post’. The second is “Of course I’ll respect you in the morning’.

“And the third is that BEIS will do anything to help Scotland’s renewable energy sector.”

Salmond then turned to the ‘folly’ of nuclear power in England, as illustrated by the new Hinkley Point atom plant.

He said: “If it’s ever completed and generates electricity at the vastly un-economic price agreed by the UK government, it will leave the public finances in tatters as consumers will be unable to pay for its electricity.”

On Brexit, Salmond described the way the UK government is handling the UK exit deal as being ‘collective madness’ with the prospect of EU funding for renewable energy projects being cut off.

But the biggest challenge for renewables after Brexit, he said, is the ‘Brex-odus’ of human capital as the supply of skilled workers  –  engineers and technicians – from the EU is also cut-off, and/or EU nationals up-sticks and leave the UK.

He warned: “This Brex-odus is causing real damaged to Scotland’s renewable energy revolution.

“Wind-powered electricity is Scotland’s second greatest renewable energy revolution (after hydro power) – which is substantial achievement over 10 years of <SNP> government in Scotland.

“But we can’t stand still and must move forward. We need to develop and install at-scale level battery storage to overcome the intermittency issue with wind and solar power – as well as pump-storage hydro power, all issues, again, that are opposed by the Tories.

Prof. Peter Cameron (PhD FRSE FCIArb) – who chaired the Renewables After Brexit conference – is Director of the Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law & Policy at Dundee University.

He said: “A lot of the credit for where Scotland’s renewables sector is where it is today goes to Alex Salmond’s vision for renewable energy in Scotland and in the EU.

6 Dec 2017


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