09 March 2011

The Right Hon Alec Salmond                                                                              
First Minister                                                                                                        
Scottish Government    

                                                                                       

Dear Sir

It is I believe becoming clear to a rapidly increasing number of voters in Scotland that the Scottish Government’s  concentration on so called renewable energy sources to the exclusion of more reliable and economic sources , such as nuclear , is little short of disastrous. Let us look at the facts:-

1. No wind or marine energy sources can be relied on to provide power when it is needed- the only time when electricity is of any value.

2. Wind and marine need nearly 100% back up from conventional generators. Therefore any expenditure on these is additional to ‘normal’ capital required to secure our electricity supplies.

3. Output from wind turbines varies rapidly, not just locally but nationally, so that conventional back up generation is required to run inefficiently at part load, incurring further costs for the consumer. 

4. Wind and wave are such extremely low density sources of energy that costs will always be high and no amount of development will alter this significantly.

5. The cost of onshore wind to the consumer is some £200/MWhr taking into account the ROC subsidy, back up generation and additional transmission costs. This is over four times the cost of energy from conventional or nuclear sources. The cost of off-shore wind is even higher at over £250/MWhr.

6. The claim that Scotland has vast resources of marine energy is based on a failure to appreciate the physics. The actual potential is readily assessed by normal engineering criteria (as in studies by Consulting Engineers Black and Veatch for The Carbon Trust and Robert Gordons University). These show that the total tidal current resource of UK waters from the Pentland Firth to the Channel Isles, neglecting costs and practical limitations such as interference with shipping and fishing and impossibility of servicing such a plethora of installations, would amount to no more than 2.5% to 5% of UK electricity requirements.

7. The costs of tidal energy to the consumer will be significantly higher than offshore wind, even after taking credit for possible developments. Wave energy will be even more costly.

8. Other low carbon technologies such as Carbon Capture and Storage are unproven on the scale envisaged, requiring long term sequestration of some 200millions tons of CO2 per year from the UK alone. Taken together with the 25% loss in efficiency of generation, energy costs would more than double.

9. Ofgem has estimated that the UK Government’s energy policy will result in a doubling of electricity prices to consumers within 15 years. The much higher renewable targets of the Scottish Government would, on a stand alone basis, result in even higher prices.

10. The CEO of National Grid in a lecture to the Royal Academy of Engineering in March 2011 stated that the effect of present energy policies would be that the era of having electricity on demand in the UK was coming to an end. The UK Government estimates there is a high risk of power cuts within five years.

11. High energy prices based on subsidies are certain to have an extremely damaging effect on the Scottish Economy as recently quantified in the Verso Economics Report using the Scottish Governments’ own economic model for the Scottish economy. The loss of jobs will far outweigh the few gains, most of which will be of low to medium quality, from renewable installations.

12. Already there has been very significant damage to Scotland’s environment- the massive installation at Doune dominating the route North from Glasgow is a case in point- with consequent loss to one of its greatest assets, the tourist industry. The value of tourism to the Scottish economy is put at £4.2bn a year, far in excess of the value of all the energy produced from wind farms even with the Scottish 80% target for renewables.

13. Prior to privatisation Scotland, with six commercial reactors, produced over 60% of its electricity from nuclear and had a thriving and profitable export trade to England. As a result Scotland benefited from having one of the lowest electricity prices in Europe and this after proper allowances for all the costs involved including waste disposal and decommissioning. Unlike the present energy regime there was no element of subsidy. As distinct from other low carbon generation, nuclear is a tried and tested technology of which we have had excellent experience now for over 50 years. Supplies of nuclear fuel are secure and the cost of energy to consumers from a new generation of reactors would be less than a quarter of that from wind and marine sources.

14. The well being of a modern economy is based on a reliable and economic supply of electricity and will be even more so in future as transport becomes increasingly electrified. If one wanted to go down in history as the politician who did most to damage Scotland’s economy it would be difficult to think of a more effective route than the present energy policy.

15. It is not too late to have a rational and balanced energy policy- but it soon will be. We have only a small window of opportunity- let us grasp it before it is too late.

Sir Donald Miller.  F Eng. FRSE.
Chairman, Scottish Power 1982-92.
 

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