By DARA BUTTERFIELD
The UK Department of Energy (DECC) has tried to calm fears over the long-term future of Scotland’s largest power station – Longannet – after its owner Scottish Power announced its boycott of the UK Government’s Capacity Market auction for the delivery of electricity generating capacity for the winter of 2018/19, saying it could ‘not be financially justified’.
The latest move comes amid warnings from independent power index forecasters of possible power-cuts and ‘brown-outs’ this winter in the UK because of a looming ‘power-crunch’ where British electricity generating supply capacity exceeds demand by a mere 2%.
Scottish Power said yesterday that the current UK market conditions, predominantly the transmission charging rules, mean that it cannot justify entering Longannet into a process which is four years away and will then only offer 12 months of certainty.
A spokesman said: “For many years we have argued that the transmission charging penalties imposed on Longannet are disproportionately high in comparison with other power stations in southern England – some of which are actually paid a fee to remain connected.
“The lack of any sensible regional flexibility in the current system penalises generators in Scotland, and discourages investment in new thermal power plants. Simply to reach the 2018 delivery year, Longannet needs to pay over £120 million in transmission penalties.
“In comparison, if Longannet was located in the London area, the station would receive a fee of £4 million per year to stay connected.”
However, a spokesman for the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change said:
“Energy transmission is something the UK government takes very seriously and Scotland is set to benefit from critical investment of up to £6bn between 2013-21, nearly 30% of total earmarked for upgrades across Britain.
“Ofgem has also approved a significant change that will reduce future charges in Scotland, which is planned to be introduced from April 2016.”
Annabelle Ewing, an SNP MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife – where Longannet is located – said: “The UK Government’s unfair transmission charging scheme is now putting 260 full time jobs at risk at Longannet – with serious implications for the local economy as well as for energy supply across the country.
“This is a ridiculous situation and action must now be taken. The UK Government and National Grid must as a matter of urgency work with Scottish Power to safeguard the future of Longannet and allow it to fulfil its potential.
“As one of the largest power stations in the UK, Longannet plays a hugely important role in energy delivery across the UK – Westminster must now wake up to the reality of the threat posed by its blatantly discriminatory charging regime.
“Longannet should have a bright future – with the potential to generate affordable and reliable power for years to come. The UK Government must now agree to talks with the Scottish Government to safeguard the plant’s future – for the sake of the 260 workers and for the security of our energy system.”
On the other side the political spectrum, Oliver Munnion, a member of pressure group Coal Action Scotland, said: “Scottish Power is telling scare stories to keep Scotland’s single biggest polluter open and producing electricity.
“Longannet’s closure should be seen as an opportunity to draw a line under coal burning, but instead we’re being told that if the plant isn’t subsidised to the tune of millions of pounds every year, our computer screens will flicker and schools and hospitals will be put at risk.”
* Meanwhile, EDF – the state-owned French utility which owns and operates two Scottish nuclear power stations – has said that cracks discovered at its Hunterston-B plant in Ayrshire have no safety or performance impact on its electricity generation. Colin Weir, station director, said ‘minor cracks’ were found in just two of 6,000 graphite bricks surrounding the reactor core.