Scots ‘could import electricity’ unless SNP changes plan

Windfarm. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Windfarm. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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Scotland could switch from being an exporter of electricity to an importer unless the SNP government changes its energy policy, civil engineers have warned.

The SNP has heavily promoted renewable energy such as wind farms and has set a target of relying on such forms of power to generate the bulk of Scotland’s electricity by 2020.

However, the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) in Scotland has cast doubt on the SNP’s plan and said the government had to move beyond an “at times irrational and ill-informed ­discourse” on energy to a more evidence-led approach.

A previewed report from ICE, which has 8,000 members in Scotland, warned of an energy supply crisis that could see Scotland forced to rely on imported electricity to meet the nation’s power needs.

The body said Scotland was facing an energy provision “gap” due to the loss of half of the country’s electricity-generating capacity during the next decade, as it cited the closure of power stations at Longannet, Hunterston and Torness. Ministers should set out a “clear vision” on how they would ensure there is a “resilient supply” of electricity to fill such a gap, it said.

Professor Gary Pender, ICE Scotland chair, 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 will be calling for a national debate on how we, as a country, deal with this to ensure that we have a resilient supply with sufficient capacity for the long term.”

In a blow to the SNP’s pro-renewables stance, ICE went on to say ministers should instead look at an energy mix and take “independent, scientific, expert advice” on the “pros and cons” of wind, nuclear and onshore gas.

Mr Pender said: “Energy policy is hugely politically controversial, with wind power, nuclear power and onshore gas extraction provoking particularly emotional and politically motivated responses.

“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.” Scottish Conservative ­energy spokesman Murdo ­Fraser, welcoming the ICE report, said: “This is a significant intervention from a well-respected expert industry group – and the SNP will have to listen.

“The SNP should swallow its pride, forget about impressing its new socialist members, and bring forward a balanced energy policy.”

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