Scientific Alliance warns of ‘five-fold increase in electricity prices’ in Independent Scotland


Professor Tony Trewavas, Chairman, Scientific Alliance Scotland
Professor Tony Trewavas, Chairman, Scientific Alliance Scotland

The Scientific Alliance today warns of a ‘five-fold increase’ in electricity prices for consumers if Scotland votes ‘yes’ in the Independence referendum next week.

 Formed in 2001, the Scientific Alliance is a non-profit membership-based organisation, based in Cambridge. The Alliance brings together both scientists and non-scientists committed to rational discussion and debate on the challenges facing the environment.

Professor Anthony Trewavas, FRS, FRSE, spokesman for the Scientific Alliance in Scotland, explains.

“The Independence referendum has seen discussion about electricity prices in an Independent Scotland. Wind energy is the main renewable source that is being used to ‘go green’ and therefore its cost is going to be critical to electricity prices. 

One claim made by the renewables industry is that the raw costs of on-shore wind energy at about £110-120 /MWhr are relatively near that of the recently negotiated price of nuclear for the prospective power station at Hinckley Point –  estimated cost  at about £92/MWhr.

Corresponding cost estimates for off-shore wind are significantly higher.

However these are not the only costs that will fall on the electricity consumer.

To ensure security of supply conventional power stations must be available to the full extent of electricity usage and in Scotland this is estimated at 5-6 GW capacity. 

 All the current power stations that provide this essential back-up will be closed within a decade. Apart from Cockenzie – where it is thought that SSEC will build a gas-fired power station of just over 1GW – no current plans seem to be available for others. 

 Although a Cockenzie-sized, gas-fired power station costs about £800 million to build, the increasing penetration of wind energy means that such power stations will only be used intermittently. Thus they are currently unlikely to be built, because they would lack profitability unless the consumer is prepared to pay very substantially more than the current £0.8 billion.

In one sense, electricity companies are in a position to demand what price they want.

Such intermittent use is likely to incur increased rate of maintenance and downtime since start-up is usually the most damaging for gas-fired power stations. Therefore more than the 5-6GW of back-up will be required.

The alternative to new power stations is use of the connector to England that is currently being up graded, but it is doubtful if this will transmit more than about 3GW. The weather conditions that would necessitate its extensive use are usually countrywide. In that case it is less likely that 3GW from England would be available for sale.

In the event of independence, the costs of agreed subsidies to wind farms will fall entirely on the Scottish consumer. The current UK total subsidy is about £3 billion but with over half the wind farms in the UK being located in Scotland, up to £1.5 billion will potentially fall on the Scottish consumer to satisfy the legal agreements with companies and landowners.

It will render the price of electricity unaffordable for most of the population here, increasing it at least five fold. In addition this very high price means it will likely be shunned by rUK in favour of much cheaper electricity from the continent via the French, Dutch and smaller Irish connections.

Electricity from France is largely nuclear which this government unwisely has refused to countenance in the longer term. Further burdens and costs usually ignored by the renewables industry include integration costs.

Two separate generating systems will have to be maintained and there will be electricity losses as it is transferred from regions where the population is light to the central belt where most usage occurs.

 Even greater losses will be incurred if it is transferred to the south of England. These so called integration costs include the costs of new power stations and at the minimum they put the price of on-shore wind energy as at a minimum of about £160-170/MWhr and off- shore at £270/MWhr. 

Either way independence carries an enormous risk with electricity price whose usage is fundamental to our way of life and which maintains  industry and transport as well as well as warm homes in a winter which is more vigorous and damaging  than elsewhere in the UK.”

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