Power Cuts Feared As Scotland Goes Green

British Nuclear Fuels warned that prices could rise by up to 63% by 2010.

Published: 12-Jan-2004

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The Scottish Executive was last night urged to think again over its timetable for switching to renewable energy amid dire warnings of massive price rises and power failures.

The move to green energy could lead to consumers' electricity bills rising by over 60%, according to a warning circulated to Scots politicians.

And former UK Energy Minister Brian Wilson warned of frequent blackouts as the system struggles to cope with demand.

Four power stations that generate half of Scotland's electricity are due to be decommiss-ioned by 2010. The executive has yet to announce what will replace them, but is committed to producing 40% of energy from renewable sources.

Now concern has been raised that customers may have to foot the £1.75billion bill for upgrading the National Grid in Scotland so it can take power from wind and wave farms.

In a briefing document to MPs and MSPs, British Nuclear Fuels warned that prices could rise by up to 63% by 2010.

North-east Tory list MSP David Davidson said last night that he felt the executive had not considered all the options.

"There is a bit of a scandal going on in that there are no figures being published about how much money is going into wind turbines," he said.

"Wind turbines cannot produce electricity at a sustainable price, they have a huge subsidy, and quite frankly they are not going to deliver, no matter what the executive says.

"If there is no wind and the Government is determined to produce 40% of energy from renewable sources then they might have to shut down the supply to some houses."

He added: "If we are going to hold to the Kyoto agreement we have to reinstate two of the nuclear power sites. We would be far better off putting money into sub-sea turbine research and other forms which are more efficient and effective."

Mr Davidson urged that the Hunterston and Torness nuclear power stations remain open.

"The staff are there, the jobs are there and the stations already comply with regulations by not releasing carbon dioxide," he said.

North-east SNP MSP Richard Lochhead said: "It beggars belief that anyone is even remotely suggesting massive hikes for Scottish householders when Scotland is a major energy producer and on the brink of a renewable energy revolution.

"Scotland already subsidises the rest of the UK and of all the countries in the world that should have cheap electricity it should be top of the list."

Aberdeen North SNP MSP Brian Adam had "significant doubts" about the figures being produced, but said: "The truth is we are all going to have to pay for the decommissioning for many generations.

"If that does not appear directly on bills, it is because the Government makes us pay through taxes."

He said there were higher costs associated with nuclear generation than other means.

The British Nuclear Fuels document said: "The Scottish Executive has set itself an extremely ambitious target for future energy supply.

"It is clear that the cost of failure will not merely be a loss of faith in the ministers, but will likely result in blackouts and huge rises in electricity bills.

"It is therefore vital the executive outlines soon whether it remains on course for its renew-able target and how it intends to replace the four stations that will cease generation by the end of the decade."

Meanwhile, Mr Wilson, Labour MP for Cunninghame North, attacked Scottish ministers for pushing ahead with the decommissioning of conventional energy sources without having a tried and tested alternative in place first.

He said it was inevitable that electricity prices would rise as the switch to green power was made, and that power cuts would increase as the new system struggled to cope.

"I am sure that prices will rise. It is very difficult to put a figure on it because there are so many variables," he said.

"The more reduction there is in surplus capacity then obviously the greater the risk to security of supply and in exceptional conditions we could certainly see power cuts.

"It is foolhardy to talk glibly about running down nuclear until you are confident about what is going to take its place. It is double foolhardy to get rid of our only major source of carbon-free electricity."

Mr Wilson wants the nuclear power stations at Hunterston, in Ayrshire, and Torness, in East Lothian, to be given a stay of execution. Ministers are committed to closing both as part of the executive's green policy.

Yesterday the executive tried to play down fears of steep rises in bills and power blackouts.

Pointing out that the 40% target for renewable power was reached in consultation with the energy industry, Deputy Enter-prise Minister Lewis Macdonald said: "We are committed to increasing the use of renewable energy and ensuring that Scotland's economy and environment each benefit from doing so."

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