THE UK energy minister has claimed that plans for the world’s longest sub-sea electricity connector linking Scotland with the rest of UK is the “perfect symbol” for the benefits of having a single electricity market.
Marking the start of the construction of the 260-mile ScottishPower Energy networks link, Michael Fallon suggested that Scottish independence could threaten the single market and could lead to English consumers to seek cheaper electricity from continental Europe.
On a visit to the Scottish end of the connector at Hunterston, Ayrshire, Mr Fallon said: “This is a £1.13 billion project linking Scotland to the rest of the UK. It is the longest sub-sea electricity connector in the world and the big point about it is that it is the perfect symbol of the UK’s single energy market.
“It will enable English and Welsh consumers to access Scottish renewable energy and gives Scotland the security of England’s base load nuclear power when the wind doesn’t blow.”
He claimed that independence could threaten that arrangement and lead to English consumers taking their electricity from the French or Belgian connectors. The Scottish Government’s white paper says that the single market would remain in place after independence. However, opponents have argued that English consumers subsidise renewable energy projects in Scotland. They also say that Scottish consumers benefit from the UK’s ability to spread the costs of energy.
The connector, which will support 450 jobs during construction, will run from Ayrshire to the Wirral and is a joint venture between Scottish Power and the National Grid.
The link will increase the capacity of electricity flowing between England and Scotland by more than 2,000 megawatts, enough capacity to meet the electricity demands of more than four million homes per year. The project, which is due to be fully operational in 2016, will allow electricity to flow north or south according to future supply and demand.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The reality is that the rest of the UK will depend on Scotland’s renewable and other energy to keep the lights on – and today’s announcement about the west coast interconnector highlights the common interest which we have with sharing energy across our borders, as outlined in Scotland’s Future.
“English and Welsh supply companies will continue to need renewable generation from Scotland after independence if they are to meet their green energy targets. Any reduction in these targets would undermine efforts to decarbonise electricity use as part of efforts to tackle climate change.”
“Scottish energy bills will go down in an independent Scotland because of the removal of the Energy Companies Obligation and the Warm Home Discount from bills.”