The economy, energy and tourism committee has concluded that the Scottish Government’s energy policy is in great shape and that the targets are totally achievable.
It recommends giving the renewable industry even more subsidies and changing planning rules to make it easier to get wind turbine planning applications approved. It also recommends that the UK government should not review wind farm subsidies in 2014 as planned, and that its nuclear energy programme should not be subsidised. Oh and by the way, tourists just love wind turbines. No surprises then from an SNP-dominated group.
Unfortunately, the report did not evaluate the risks associated with the policy, nor did it consider how electricity would be supplied, or how much it would cost, during the many periods when there is no wind. There was no examination of other options such as the most economic mix of energy sources.
There was no hard evidence that there is an export market for surplus electricity, just an assumption that England cannot wait to buy our very expensive electricity even although its own more balanced mix of energy sources should be more reliable and cheaper. If England did need additional electricity it would most likely buy it from France (as it does now) which produces the cheapest electricity in Europe.
The report completely dismissed community concerns. The committee chose to ignore the heads of Planning Scotland’s written evidence which stated that “an increasing number of applications are made for sensitive areas or where an unacceptable cumulative impact would occur”.
It is all very well reporting that polls indicated most people were in favour of the government plans but most people are urban dwellers. They do not see these wind turbines every day. In rural areas the erection of one or more 100-metre (328ft) turbines 400 metres from a home renders it worthless, making prisoners of the owners.
In Aberdeenshire, which has seen a 998 per cent rise in turbine applications since 2007, a poll by the local newspaper showed that 68 per cent of respondents thought that the planning rules needed to be reviewed.
The committee accepted the mantra that Scotland is the world leader in renewable technology without reference to any supporting evidence. The dominate technology in Scotland is the wind turbine but that is far from new – it is a few hundred years old.
The committee should have explored the huge investments in renewables being made by other countries and considered whether our relatively small country might be better joining some of these programmes. At least it should have considered the possible impact of nascent technologies.
Finally, the committee could not resist an undignified swipe at Donald Trump. The committee said his evidence was “not empirical”. Maybe not – but how much of the report was based on empirical evidence?
Scotland deserves a better level of debate on this important subject – this report could have been dictated by Alex Salmond and the renewable energy industry.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 25 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 20 mph
Wind direction: North east