I read with interest the comments made by Scottish Conservative councillor, Cameron Rose, about renewable energy (Letters, 15 February). Hopefully, I can address some of the common misconceptions around the cost to the consumer, public subsidy and the economic effect of renewables.
Figures from Ofgem, the independent regulator, show that the average UK household energy bill is currently £811 for gas and £531 for electricity.
The Renewables Obligation adds £21 to the average energy bill, equivalent to 1.56 per cent, while at the same time the wholesale price of gas has been the single largest contributor to energy bills.
It is perhaps for this reason that a Scottish Parliament committee recently concluded that “renewable energy represents a safe bet both for energy security and for protection from price shock”.
In relation to public subsidy, it is important to put any support that renewable energy receives in the context of the wider support given to other parts of the energy industry.
For instance, the annual UK Government support for nuclear decommissioning is greater than £2 billion, while the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has estimated tax breaks and financial support for coal, oil and gas in the UK totalled more than £3.6bn in 2010.
Finally, renewable energy clearly has a positive effect on the Scottish economy, with 11,000 jobs currently reliant on the sector in Scotland, more than £900 million of investment in the first six months of 2012 alone, and evidence that one pound in every eight spent on civil engineering in infrastructure in Scotland comes from grid and renewables work.
However, I cannot put the economic case for renewables any more succinctly than the Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, who was quoted last week as saying: “To those who say that we just can’t afford to prioritise green energy right now, I say, we can’t afford not to.”
A report (14 February) from PriceWaterhouseCoopers said Scotland was in a prime position to capitalise on shale gas since Scotland is sitting on top of £5 billion of natural gas reserves. This would reduce electricity prices and fuel poverty, create and preserve real jobs and re-ignite the economy.
Shale gas needs no subsidies thus rendering wind turbines obsolete. The abundance of cheap natural gas transformed the US economy.
Patrick Harvie MSP moans that fracking would be “irresponsible and blow Scotland’s climate-change reduction targets out of the water”.
Politicians on an ego trip set Scotland’s targets. Scotland, with only 0.15 per cent of global emissions, cannot make one iota of difference. Germany’s governing coalition now wants to end the moratorium on shale gas extraction before the federal election this autumn.
The British Geological Survey estimates there is more than 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas in the UK. This would power and heat Britain for centuries.