Scots need new power station ‘or lights go out’

SCOTLAND must build new power stations if it wants to keep the lights on beyond 2025, opposition leaders will warn today.

Longannet would be an ideal place for a new facility, according to the Tories. Picture: Michael Gillen

A massive new gas-powered plant could be built at Longannet which looks poised to shut down within the next decade, according to the Conservatives.

But environmental bodies have dismissed the claims, insisting that Scotland can continue to power itself from green sources like wind and hydro.

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The issue will come under the spotlight at Holyrood in a major debate today.

Recent weeks have seen fresh doubts raised over the future of the Longannet coal power station in Fife and both Hunterston and Torness nuclear plants are nearing the end of their lives.

It means that new sources would be needed for about 60 per cent of Scotland’s electricity supply.

Tory energy spokesman Murdo Fraser will warn there is no strategy from the Scottish Government which has “shut the door” on fracking and ­nuclear power.

“We need at least one new gas-powered generating station for Scotland,” he said.

“And if we are not going to replace Torness and Hunterston with new nuclear capacity, we’ll probably need more than that.

“Not only does Longannet provide a quarter of Scotland’s electricity output, it is also the major buyer of coal from Scottish opencast producers.

“The simple fact is renewable energy cannot provide the baseload necessary to provide electricity to Scotland’s homes and businesses at all times, to meet every demand, whether the wind is blowing or not.

“Within a decade, we are going to lose 60 per cent of our electricity generating capacity, and there is simply no strategy from the SNP as to how we are going to keep the lights on after 2025.

“Longannet would be an ideal place for a new gas station. The infrastructure is there, the skills are there and the workforce is there. If Longannet is to close, that corner of Fife would be perfect for a replacement.

“We need an updated energy strategy for Scotland – and we need it before the lights go out.”

It is widely accepted that Longannet does not have a long-term future as Scotland moves to low-carbon forms of electricity. Operator ScottishPower wants to keep the power station going to until the end of the decade, but high transmission costs means it may close early.

Nicola Sturgeon wrote to David Cameron last week calling for assurances after a warning from experts in Scotland that Longannet’s closure could threaten UK energy security.

But WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said Scotland doesn’t need new electricity from coal, gas or nuclear to ensure security of supply.

“Pursuing a high renewables and energy efficient pathway would also enable Scotland to continue exporting power to the rest of the UK,” he said.

“Renewables have grown massively in recent years, making them now Scotland’s biggest electricity generator, outstripping nuclear, coal and gas.”

New EU rules on air pollution, carbon pricing and its role in creating almost a fifth of Scotland’s total climate pollution meant Longannet was always likely to close before the end of the decade, according to the WWF chief.

But he added: “What is needed is a just transition toward a clean-energy future, with focused efforts on securing new low-carbon employment in the area.

“If there was one thing Scotland’s politicians could do to help, then it would be to ensure Scotland is not held back from harnessing its full renewable energy potential.”