Scots would see their energy bills rise under independence in order to fund the “renewables revolution”, UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey has warned.
But the Liberal Democrat minister was accused of penalising Scottish communities, which face higher costs to produce energy than the south of England.
The SNP government wants to generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity from green energy sources such as wind and wave power by 2020.
But Mr Davey, who appeared at Holyrood’s economy committee yesterday, warned that it was “risky” for the Scottish Government to put all its “eggs in one basket” on energy policy.
“If an independent Scotland decided it want to continue this laudable aim of going for 100 per cent renewable energy, the question then is who is going to pay for that,” Mr Davey said. “Would it be consumers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland being asked to pay for the electricity generation from an independent Scotland?”
He added: “I’m not suggesting the costs of renewable energy are dramatically huge, energy bills have gone up across the UK and Europe because of the high cost of gas. That’s the main reason bills have gone up. Nevertheless paying for renewable energy – while we have a subsidised system – has to be paid for and it would seem rather odd for England Wales and Northern Ireland to subsidise generation by a different country.”
Davey warned that energy bills would be higher in an independent Scotland by “tens of pounds each year”.
The minister also said the SNP has not approached the UK government about the arrangements for the current shared electricity grid. “I would urge them to engage in the debate and tell us how they would want to run things,” he said. “I personally believe that all these low carbon technologies, including new nuclear, will come on, but you cannot be sure. I don’t believe anyone can sure.”
He added: “I think if you put all your eggs on one basket, go it alone, I think that’s risky.” Mr Davey was giving evidence to MSPs on the final day of an inquiry by Holyrood’s economy, energy and tourism committee into the SNP government’s 2020 target.
Nationalist MSPs said island generators pay six times as much to connect to the grid than mainland generators. SNP MSP Angus McDonald raised the case of energy firm Aquamarine Power, which faces £3.5 million worth of “locational charges” for its generators near Lewis.
“This is a massive penalty,” he said. “To put it into context, a renewable energy project of the same size in southern England would pay just £40,000 a year.With the Western and Northern Isles home to probably the world’s best wind, wave and tidal resources – as you have said yourself – is this not the economics of the madhouse?”
Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing later told the committee that English jobs and consumers would bear the brunt of any decision to push an independent Scotland from a single UK energy framework.
Such a “scorched earth” policy would go against decisions already made by regulators, he said.