The EU has its 20-20-20 energy policy, which sets eye-watering and unachievable targets for renewables and emissions reductions by 2020, and is driving the stampede to wind and solar power in Europe. The British government has taken this further with its Climate Act 2008, making the UK the only EU member-state to mandate emissions reductions as far ahead as 2050. It sets a target of 80% emissions reduction by 2050 from the 1990 base-line. If achieved, this would end the UK’s rôle as an industrial nation. The estimated cost of the Act is £18 billion a year until 2050 – or £720 billion over forty years.
But just when you thought things could hardly get worse, here comes the SNP determined that Scotland shall move to 100% renewable electricity generation. This plan is technically illiterate, as intermittent renewables require conventional back-up. I don’t know how the SNP proposes to square this circle. The only methods I know are batteries and pumped hydro. Pumped hydro is expensive and inefficient, and there is simply not the capacity in Scotland to provide enough, unless they want to dam Glencoe. The ideas for smoothing demand and even recovering energy from the battery packs of electric vehicles are simply fanciful in the foreseeable future.
There is a delicious irony in the SNP aiming for 100% renewables while basing their hopes for the economy of an independent Scotland on good old fossil fuels – oil and gas from the North Sea.
The SNP seems blissfully unaware of the work by Professor Gordon Hughes at their own Edinburgh University showing that much of the additional generation and emissions reduction expected from wind farms is off-set by inefficiencies in the conventional back-up. 100% renewable generation is simply impossible to achieve.
It is also eye-wateringly expensive – which is why in Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for radical cuts in renewables subsidies. I’m afraid that renewables are (in the true sense) simply not sustainable. And the European Council has called for more emphasis on security of energy supply and competitiveness, and therefore less emphasis on emissions and renewables.
The SNP policy cannot succeed, and cannot significantly affect global emissions or global temperatures (even if you accept AGW theory). But it will undermine competitiveness, and drive industry, jobs and investment out of Scotland (and maybe to jurisdictions with lower environmental standards – so increasing emissions). It will threaten security of supply. And it will force even more Scottish households and pensioners into fuel poverty (they tell me that 40% of Scottish households are already technically in fuel poverty). To put it in plain terms, Scottish pensioners will die of cold as a direct consequence of the SNP’s folly.
The SNP (and others who should know better) rhapsodise over the “green jobs” that will be created by their policy. But there are a number of studies from around Europe showing that each “green job” created costs several real jobs in the real economy, because high energy prices stunt growth and investment. The most relevant study for Scotland is by Verso Economics, and shows that in Scotland 3.7 real jobs are lost for every “green job” created.
Worse still, most of these “green jobs” are overseas. No wind turbines are now made in the UK. Most solar panels come from China. Scots may well ask whether it’s worth losing 3.7 jobs in Scotland to create one green job in Chengdu.
The impact of the SNP’s plans around Aberdeen can be seen from the map above. Their renewables policy threatens jobs. It will create poverty and unemployment – an economic waste-land, cluttered with useless turbines. It will drive Scottish people into fuel poverty. It will jeopardise security of supply. It will ruin ancient and beautiful landscapes, decimate tourism, blight homes and lives. It will kill pensioners. And it will do nothing for the environment or the planet. Thank you Alex Salmond.