Salmond calls on British energy minister to support Scots hydro power expansion in the ‘renewables revolution’


Cruachan hydro power station
Cruachan hydro power station

First Minister Alex Salmond has hailed pumped storage hydro as the natural complement to Scotland’s ‘renewables revolution’, and called for energy policy powers to be fully devolved to Holyrood from the Westminster parliament.

His visit to Scottish Power’s hydro power station at Cruachan on Loch Awe – where he received an update on the potential to more than double the station’s capacity – coincided with the publication of a new report on securing Scotland’s power supplies by the UK’s former chief energy regulator, Alistair Buchanan.

The report published today highlights the UK’s emerging energy gap and the shift in UK energy policy needed to secure the construction of new clean thermal plant and flexible hydro power in Scotland. The  key messages in the report – Assessing Scotland’s Security of Supply in the GB Electricity Market –  highlight:

  • the vital role played by Scottish renewable, thermal and hydro generation in providing secure electricity supplies across Great Britain and in managing the electricity system
  • the huge importance of flexible generation, such as pumped storage, relies on adequate incentives for new investment from UK energy policy
  • the competitive disadvantage of Scottish generation is a result of high UK transmission charges which discourages new investment in Scotland
  • the option to set separate security and reliability of supply standards in Scotland where judged necessary, complementing GB-wide methods
  • the need for Scottish issues to play a greater part of GB energy policy making and decisions

It follows an Ofgem report earlier this year which warned of UK spare capacity margins falling to as low as 2% during 2015/16.

The First Minister said: “Scotland is a resource rich country, and our energy capabilities and needs are different to those of the UK as a whole. It is imperative that we have the power and responsibility to decide how best we might develop that potential and meet those needs.

“Scotland was one of the first countries to harness power from its waters and the world’s first to develop high head reversible pumped storage. We have the capacity to do much more with our wonderful hydro resource, to generate clean power and store the vast power of renewables.

“That is certainly the case here at Cruachan Power Station, a remarkable monument to the vision of Tom Johnston and to the courage and skill of the ’tunnel tigers’ who built it.

 “This new report makes it clear that investments like this, and in in new capacity right across Scotland, are not best served by the current system. A transfer of energy policy powers, which we have proposed to the Smith Commission, is the best way to ensure that Scotland’s energy security and renewable ambitions remain protected and on track.

“With the regulator predicting an ever tighter gap between electricity generation and peak demand within the GB system, it is clear that increasing new hydro capacity will not only strengthen Scotland’s energy mix, but also enhance the security of supply right across these islands.

“The UK Government has shown willing to provide a generous bespoke contract to support expensive new nuclear power at Hinkley Point C, including massive subsidies up to £35 billion and a loan guarantee of £10 billion.

We believe pumped storage – given its huge advantages for our electricity system – should be shown an equivalent level of commitment given that the potential costs are much less than new build nuclear.”

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