Energy price crisis: The £1 billion scandal of taxpayers' money being used to stop wind turbines turning – Kenny MacAskill MP

I saw mention on social media last week that the north of Scotland’s domestic electricity had been supplied some days entirely by renewables.

Wind turbine firms are being paid compensation to stop producing electricity because of a lack of storage capacity (Picture: John Devlin)
Wind turbine firms are being paid compensation to stop producing electricity because of a lack of storage capacity (Picture: John Devlin)

With Scotland having 60 per cent of the UK’s onshore wind capacity and 25 per cent of Europe’s offshore wind capacity, things are only going to get better or so you’d think.

But there’s an absurdity and indeed perversity in our energy system that’s not being addressed.

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The absurdity’s that as Scots struggle to meet their electricity bills, not only are they charged more as prices are linked to European gas, but turbines are switched off.

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Energy that could be produced cheaply here is instead not even powered up. If you’re out for a walk and see a turbine idling, the likelihood is that it’s not that the wind isn’t blowing or the machine not working. In 2019, 29 Scottish wind farms were curtailed, industry-speak for being requested to reduce or switch off. Eighty per cent of curtailments were in Scotland.

Added to that absurdity is the perversity that it comes at a massive cost. In 2021/22 alone, £164 million was paid out to suppliers to not turn. Pretty soon, it’ll be nearing £1 billion over five years.

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Compounding those insanities, suppliers are paid more to switch off than they are for the energy. Costs are also greatest in winter. Logical perhaps as demand is greatest and therefore more needs paid out to compensate. But cruel for those freezing in their homes and seeing turbines idling in the distance.

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The reason is that there’s insufficient grid capacity to send it south. That’s only going to worsen as new wind farms open onshore and the offshore revolution comes on stream.

Of course, cables are being laid to get around that but there’s a solution that offers huge opportunities for Scotland. The energy can be stored in giant batteries and used when the wind isn’t blowing, or demand’s highest. It’s relatively new technology but it exists and should be rolled out. We can also make hydrogen, all that’s needed is energy and water and we’ve got both in spades.

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Scotland’s blessed with renewable energy. Switching it off is ridiculous and failing to capitalise with batteries and hydrogen perverse. It’s time both the UK and Scottish governments got moving and ended this absurdity.

Kenny MacAskill is Alba Party MP for East Lothian

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