From The Telegraph
Scotland will have to start importing electricity to keep the lights on unless the SNP changes its “irrational” energy policy, the country’s civil engineers have warned.
In a damning verdict on the Scottish Government, the Institution of Civil Engineers Scotland said the debate on energy had to move beyond an “ill-informed discourse” to a more evidence-led approach.
With 55 per cent of Scotland’s electricity generating capacity being closed down over the next eight years, it said the SNP had to set out a “clearly articulated vision for the future” on how this will be replaced.
If this doesn’t happen, it warned, Scotland “will transition from being a net exporter to being a net importer of electricity” in the wake of the closure of the Longannet coal-fired power station in Fife next year and the Hunterston and Torness nuclear plants.
Professor Gary Pender, the chair of the institution’s Scottish committee, said the debate over wind and nuclear power and onshore gas extraction had produced “particularly emotional and politically motivated responses.”
Although energy policy is reserved to Westminster, SNP ministers have used their control of the planning system to block the construction of a new generation of nuclear plants and encourage the construction of hundreds of wind turbines that produce intermittent power.
But the Scottish Government has announced a moratorium on fracking that will last until at least 2017, with SNP members using the party conference in Aberdeen earlier this month to put ministers under intense pressure to impose an outright ban.
One delegate attacked Ineos, which wants to conduct access shale gas in Scotland, accusing the company of attempting to “blow our country to pieces.” Fergus Ewing, the SNP’s Energy Minister, has also announced a separate moratorium on unconventional gas extraction offshore.
Algy Cluff, the head of Cluff Natural Resources, which wanted to convert underground coal below the Firth of Forth into gas, has warned this decision combined with the closure of Longannet has created a “huge energy problem” for Scotland.
Prof Pender said: “Scotland will transition from being a net exporter to being a net importer of electricity if the closures of Longannet, Hunterston and Torness are not replaced by new development.
“We need to move beyond this at times irrational and ill-informed discourse about all these forms of energy generation, and conduct a thorough, expert-informed assessment of the right approach for Scotland.”
He urged Scottish ministers, working with their UK counterparts, to make energy policy based on “evidence and resilience, not on emotion and politics.”
The Institution, which has 8,000 members, is to publish a report next week analysing in detail the Scottish Government’s energy policy, including a scorecard on its performance.
Murdo Fraser, the Scottish Tory energy spokesman, said: “This is a significant intervention from a well-respected expert industry group – and the SNP will have to listen.
“Instead of pandering to the green lobby, ministers have a responsibility to keep the lights on and make sure energy prices are low. The SNP should swallow its pride, forget about impressing its new socialist members, and bring forward a balanced energy policy.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Scotland’s abundant energy resources play a vital role in delivering security of electricity supply across the UK – Scotland exported 28 per cent of all electricity generated in 2013.
“We have a clear policy for a balanced energy mix to provide energy security for the future that balances fossil fuels alongside the growing importance of renewables, which again saw record levels of generation last year, and without the need for new nuclear power.”