ALEX Salmond has warned of an “extremely frightening” prospect of power blackouts across the UK over the next two years as demand outstrips supply.
The warning emerged during talks with the energy regulator Ofgem, Mr Salmond told MSPs at Holyrood today. The whole of the UK would be hit, with Scots under threat despite the country being a net exporter of energy.
But he was accused of not “standing up” for hard pressed families over his failure to back Labour’s call for a one-off freeze on energy prices. David Cameron announced an immediate inquiry into competition in the energy market after the latest round of inflation-busting rises by the “Big Six” power companies in recent weeks.
Mr Salmond told MSPs during First Minister’s Questions that he met Ofgem earlier this week. “They showed me some figures which indeed are extremely frightening,” he said.
“They suggest that twice over the next two winters, we are facing a lack of margin of supply over demand which could result certainly in brownouts, perhaps even in blackouts. That’s lack of electricity supply.
“One of the things that will happen if we approach that situation of low margin is that prices will increase exponentially as people try desperately to get that last kilowatt of electricity.”
Ofgem warned in June that the danger of power shortages in the UK by the middle of the decade has risen, with production capacity poised to fall to 2 per cent by 2015.
Mr Salmond added: “Two things are necessary if competition in this market is to be applied properly. Firstly there has to be a surplus of supply over demand where companies compete to supply people with electricity. Second there has to be transparency in bills so people can make that choice.”
He said the Scottish Government’s plans to bring down bills by ditching green energy taxes from bills and insisted the SNP administration had “thought out ideas” for getting the energy market under control.
But Labour leader Johann Lamont said the SNP’s leader’s rejection of Labour’s price freeze echoed the arguments of Prime Minister David Cameron and the big energy firms. “What a counsel of despair – we can’t take on these big companies because they’ll do bad things just now to stop it being effective in the future,” she added.
“Stand up to them,” she urged. “Don’t explain away what they are doing to the people of this country.”
Ms Lamont said the First Minister had backed disgraced ex-Royal Bank of Scotland boss Fred Goodwin in the banking crisis and Rupert Murdoch during the phone-hacking scandal.
“Now as families throughout the country are being ripped off for electricity and gas, he stands with the Big Six energy companies.”