Renewables could fuel future exports

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IN response to The Scotsman article by Peter Jones, “Renewables nirvana could be hot air”(Perspective, 11 February), I would point out that Scotland already provides over a third of the UK’s renewable electricity generation.

And with the regulator Ofgem warning of a tightening gap between electricity generation and supply, the rest of the UK will continue to rely on Scotland’s enormous renewable energy resources to ensure security of supply and “keep the lights on”.

Energy experts such as ­Professor Euan Phimister of the University of Aberdeen and analyst David Hunter of Schneider Electric have confirmed this point, with Prof Phimister saying that “it’s likely that rUK electricity ­demand for Scottish electricity overall will remain ­significant”.

Yes, the UK can access power from the continent via interconnectors, but their capacity is limited and availability is not guaranteed. After all, and as the former chief executive of Ofgem, Alistair Buchanan, has noted, our continental neighbours also have an issue with lack of supply.

Indeed, given the operation of the interconnectors is underpinned by market forces, in a situation of electricity shortages driving up wholesale prices on the continent, the interconnectors could be exporting and not importing power.

Furthermore, Scotland has nothing to fear from greater inter-connection – we have a competitive advantage as a net exporter and as a country with a significant proportion of the European Union’s energy resources. That is why we are delighted that work is already under way to significantly increase the transfer capacity from Scotland to the rest of the GB network over the coming years and we support increased inter-connection with our neighbours and across the EU.

Labour’s Caroline Flint happily ignores these points when threatening to end the cross-subsidy arrangements behind the current GB energy market – despite admitting in BBC interviews that what is important is keeping the lights on.

After all, the current GB energy market doesn’t help support Scottish renewable electricity generation out of the goodness of David Cameron’s heart, but because it helps consumers keep the lights on and the bills down.

Recently published research – known as the DREUD report – which was conducted by academics representing universities in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales has highlighted how it is the UK coalition government’s nuclear power plans which risk increasing energy bills.

Happily, the latest stats show that Scotland is on track to meet its interim target of meeting 50 per cent of electricity consumption from renewables by 2015 – benefiting consumers across these islands.

Fergus Ewing MSP

Minister for energy,
enterprise and tourism,

Scottish Government

Holyrood, Edinburgh

Peter Jones (Perspective, 11 February) in discussing renewables claims installing additional generators at ­Cruachan will increase Scotland’s pumped storage capacity up to 2,040 megawatts. Your editorial contains a similar statement. This reveals a lack of understanding of the fundamental distinction between generating capacity and energy storage capacity.

Generating capacity is maximum power output expressed in megawatts, whereas energy storage capacity is measured in megawatt hours, that is, power multiplied by time.

If Cruachan’s storage capacity is to be increased, its reservoir at the top of the mountain would have to store more water.

Adding extra turbine generators in itself will do nothing to increase energy storage.

Not to understand such basic energy concepts makes it almost impossible to provide credible commentary on Scottish energy matters.

David Shirres


West Lothian