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A panel of Scotland’s leading engineers says an “irrational” plan by the country’s government to shut down more than half of its electricity generating capacity in the coming years would leave it reliant on imported energy.
The government, under the Scottish National Party (SNP), plans to close 55 percent of its current generating capacity during the next eight years without offering a “clearly articulated vision for the future” and ensuring a “resilient supply” of electricity, according to the Scottish committee of the British Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).
Energy policy in Scotland is the purview of Parliament in London because the country is part of the United Kingdom. Still, the SNP, which controls Scotland’s planning system, has acted unwisely in its effort to promote renewable energy.
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The party says it hopes the country can generate most of its electricity through clean sources, particularly wind power, by 2020. As part of its program, the SNP has blocked construction of new nuclear power plants in the country and fostered the development of wind turbines, which are clean and safe but don’t provide a consistent flow of power.
The 8,000-member Scottish committee of ICE said the SNP’s energy policy could lead to a country forced to rely on imported electricity. Instead, it said, Scottish ministers should accept “independent, scientific, expert advice” and consider a variety of energy sources, including nuclear power and onshore gas as well as wind energy.
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The chairman of ICE’s Scottish committee, Gary Pender, said the government's decision was based on faulty logic. “We need to move beyond this at times irrational and ill-informed discourse about all these forms of energy generation and conduct a thorough, expert-informed assessment of the right approach for Scotland,” he said.
Pender said it’s time for the governments in both Edinburgh and London to base energy policy on “evidence and resilience, not on emotion and politics.” Otherwise, he said, “Scotland will transition from being a net exporter to being a net importer of electricity.”
The energy spokesman for the opposition Conservative Party in the Scottish Parliament, Murdo Fraser, was blunt in his criticism of the SNP policy. “This is a significant intervention from a well-respected expert industry group – and the SNP will have to listen,” he said.
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“Instead of pandering to the green lobby, ministers have a responsibility to keep the lights on and make sure energy prices are low,” Fraser said. “The SNP should swallow its pride, forget about impressing its new socialist members, and bring forward a balanced energy policy.”
A Scottish government spokesman, speaking anonymously as is the custom in Britain, defended the SNP policy. “Scotland’s abundant energy resources play a vital role in delivering security of electricity supply across the UK – Scotland exported 28 per cent of all electricity generated in 2013,” he said.
“We have a clear policy for a balanced energy mix to provide energy security for the future that balances fossil fuels alongside the growing importance of renewables, which again saw record levels of generation last year, and without the need for new nuclear power,” the spokesman said.
By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com
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Andy Tully is a veteran news reporter who is now the news editor for Oilprice.com