Pages tagged with "energy"

Energy freeze won't cool Scotland's anger over energy rip-off

The UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has decided to extend the current cap on energy prices for another three months - but that is not enough to help Scottish families who have to pay over the odds to heat their homes. 

The headline figure says that this will keep average bills at £2,500 a year instead of pushing them up to £3,000. But people living in Scotland, especially in rural areas, pay more while average incomes are lower - leading to soaring levels of fuel poverty. Energy Action Scotland calculates that the Scottish average bill is £1,000 more than England. 

An analysis from February 2022, before the bulk of the fuel bill rises, showed that the levels of fuel poverty range were already running at 57% in Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, 47% in Highland and 46% in Argyll and Bute.

The irony is that these are the very areas which produce energy, from oil and gas to wind and tidal power. When Scotland becomes independent, its elected government will be empowered to regulate and tax energy producers in a way that puts Scotland’s people at the heart of energy policy. 

Too little too late

The gesture by the UK Government to freeze prices comes as falling energy prices on the global market has meant the cap has cost them less than predicted. The wholesale price of gas fell by 75% since its peak in Summer 2022. Given this drop in prices, the UK Government should have the capacity to reduce bills instead of freezing them, perhaps by extending the £400 Energy Bill Support Scheme payments which come to an end this month. 

The freeze is obviously better than an egregious rise. But the people of Scotland are frustrated about how Westminster has seen fit to manage Scotland’s energy resources and want to take the levers of power into their own hands. 

Scotland produces around as much energy as it uses from renewable sources that cost 9 times less than gas- we should pay less for energy, not more.

Scottish people are angry about energy rip off

The people of Scotland are increasingly angry that they have to dance to Westminster’s tune on energy. They live in an energy rich country but don’t see the benefits. They have seen how the UK Government’s pursuit of ideological privatisation has impacted the lives of ordinary people. 

British Gas was once in public ownership. Under the Centrica name, in February it announced that last year, profits had tripled to a record £3.3 billion as energy prices and production soared, paving the way for a £300 million share buy-back - at the same time as it was sending debt collectors to forcibly install prepayment meters. 

Why Scots are unfairly burdened when it comes to energy costs

  • The much-quoted “average” of £2,500 a year hides the fact that, in much of Scotland, bills are higher. 
  • Many people living in Scotland outside of the Central Belt don’t have access to gas, which is still priced lower than electricity - despite the fact it is much cheaper to produce.
  • Scotland pays higher standing charges than most of England.
  • Temperatures tend to be lower in Scotland, so people need to use more energy.
  • The UK is the only European country (except Portugal which was forced to do so after a financial crisis) to have privatised the national grid. This has led to additional problems with lack of investment and planning for the transition to renewables. 
  • The privatised National Grid operates across the UK as a whole - there is no opportunity for Scotland to make greater use of its own renewable energy or charge to export it to England.
  • The National Grid also does not allow Scotland to set its own demand signals - for example making energy cheaper at weekends as some countries do. 
  • The amount that is charged in the fixed portion of bills includes clawing back money lost when 30 energy supply firms went bust due to regulatory failure that can be laid at the door of the UK Government.
  • Household energy bills also include a levy for expensive nuclear power that Scotland doesn’t want or need. 
  • Scottish households pay the highest energy bills in Europe - where many governments have nationally-owned power companies. 

Cheapskate gesture won’t buy off demands for independence

The UK Government’s cheapskate gesture is too little too late for Scotland. Falling gas and electricity prices mean the government has already made a saving – the scheme was forecast to cost £37bn in January. It does nothing to recognise that Scotland is suffering from higher levels of fuel poverty while its natural resources are plundered for profit. 

Scotland is at the mercy of the UK government when it comes to regulating the energy market. It has become obvious that the pursuit of ideological privatisation has led to a situation where ordinary people pay much higher bills and that money ends up in the profits of energy companies, who have used it to fund share buybacks and dividends.

While the overall UK energy policy comes under question, an independent Scotland could consider whether to build back some public ownership and how to regulate the private sector in a way that puts people at the heart of energy policy. It could certainly charge less if it controlled its own renewable energy supply. 

Scotland is sick of seeing successive Westminster governments exploit Scotland’s energy resources for profit without protecting the interests of Scotland’s people. It is time for independence.

Media Watch: by recognising Scotland is an "energy goldmine", the Daily Express boosts case for independence

The right-wing, ultra British nationalist Daily Express is not normally the first to make the case for Scottish independence - but an article calling Scotland “an energy goldmine” can only strengthen support for the country to run its own affairs. The headline  “UK handed energy 'jackpot' as Scotland's huge goldmine could export £25bn a year to EU” was an own goal for the Unionist propaganda sheet.

It seems the cat is out of the Unionist bag. Scotland is hugely rich in energy resources boats the Express - although in truth Scots currently see little benefit. In fact, thanks to a combination of UK government privatisation, poor regulation and general mismanagement, Scots pay some of the highest energy bills in the world and that is fuelling support for independence. As an independent country, Scotland could manage its own resources and achieve levels of prosperity similar to other energy-rich countries like Norway. 

“Scotland could soon lead the way in developing hydrogen”

The Daily Express reported that Scotland’s hydrogen exports will be worth a huge sum:

“The UK is set for a major energy boost, as Scotland's green hydrogen plans are set to be worth £25billion a year in exports alone by 2045. As the UK looks for ways to reach its legally binding commitment of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, while also ensuring its energy security, many have pointed to hydrogen as an answer. 

“The gas - which can be split out of water by electrolysis - can be used for cooking and heating and when burnt only produces water as a byproduct, rather than fossil fuels. According to Angus Robertson, the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central and Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Secretary, Scotland could soon lead the way in developing hydrogen.”

“Scotland gifted with abundant energy resources”

The newspaper admits for once that Scotland is exceptionally rich in energy - although the country has little to show for the huge reserves of oil and gas that have been harvested from its waters.

“Scotland has been historically gifted with abundant energy reserves in the form of North Sea fossil fuels and is regarded to be the largest producer of oil and the second largest producer of gas in Europe.”

Now Scotland is embarking on a new era of potential energy wealth, the Daily Express reports.

“But as the world shifts away from dirty fossil fuels, the region has also been developing renewable energy potential, which Mr Robertson notes is enough to "satisfy our own domestic requirements and also be exported".

“Given the vast potential for offshore wind, Scotland recently launched the world's biggest licensing round for floating offshore wind energy with the potential to deliver 27.6 gigawatts (GW). “He wrote in the Edinburgh Evening News: "The 'ScotWind' project opens up the exciting prospect of making Scotland a world leader in hydrogen production, which can be used in fuel cells to generate electricity or power and heat buildings."

Yet the Daily Express constantly paints Scotland as “too poor” to be independent

Despite reporting in Scotland’s vast potential energy wealth, the Scottish Daily Express frequently carries articles suggesting that Scotland is too poor to be an independent country

For example, in October under the headline “Nicola Sturgeon 'insulting our intelligence' say Scottish Express readers who'll not 'vote for poverty' with the SNP”, the Express was scathing about the Scottish government’s report detailing economic plans for an independent Scotland Building a New Scotland: A stronger economy with independence

“Nicola Sturgeon claims it is a “careful and responsible phased approach” but a Scottish Daily Express reader said: "Careful and responsible - That's Sturgy-speak for careless and irresponsible". That was just one in a series of articles similarly scoffing at Scotland’s ability to run its own affairs. 

So why has this good news story about Scotland's renewable potential been published? Well, we wonder if the holiday season has meant that the political editor wasn't around to spike the economics editor's factual reporting and os the truth has slipped through the paper's propaganda firewall.

Scotland will be a prosperous independent country

Scotland has little to show for the huge fossil fuel resources harvested from the North Sea. Now that the renewable energy potential of Scotland is clear, many Scots see that as a second chance they do not want to see squandered by a UK government Scotland didn’t vote for. 

Even the Daily Express admits that Scotland is an energy goldmine. Many Scots will question why, although some can look out of their windows at oil rigs and wind turbines, they can’t afford to heat their homes. Scotland has no ability to regulate, tax or otherwise manage the country’s vast energy resources at the moment.

Independence can’t come soon enough. 

Ten reasons Scotland can't afford to stay in the UK any longer

Campaigners for the union try to make people fear that independence somehow risks damaging Scotland’s prosperity. Indeed, it sometimes appears to be their only tactic. All the evidence suggests that Scotland has what it takes to thrive as an independent nation - it will be the most advanced and wealthiest nation ever to achieve its independence. Within the Union, Scotland is not as wealthy as many similar-sized northern European nations, many of whom lack Scotland's massive natural wealth and economic advantages. In fact, it trails behind even Northern Ireland in terms of growth. There is a cost to staying in the UK too, both in financial terms and in the opportunity cost. The Union Scotland is failing to realise its true potential and it looks set to continue on that path for as long as it is held back by a combination of Westminster incompetence and a lack of care for Scotland's interests.

1 The windfall tax on Scottish assets is bailing out the UK

The windfall tax on oil and gas companies' profits, combined with tax takes from the energy companies and petrol taxes levied at the pump are going to raise billions for the UK Treasury. Bloomberg reported the Treasury will collect £12 billion of tax from the oil and gas sector in 2022 - before adding the £5 billion windfall tax. That does not include fuel duties on petrol and heating oil which are expected to raise £26.2 billion this year.

This money is being raised largely from Scotland’s natural assets. And yet Scots pay more than anyone else in the UK to fuel their cars and heat their homes. To add insult to injury, headlines at the time of the last independence referendum told voters Scotand’s oil was about to run out. ​​In May 2014, one of the BBC’s leading stories reported “In just over five years Britain will have run out of oil, coal and gas.

The windfall tax also carries a tax ‘super-deductible’ that is designed to encourage more fossil fuel extraction. The UK Government is continuing a half century of mismanaging Scotland’s energy potential the same way. 

2 The UK Government has demonstrated it can’t be trusted to invest fairly

In an act of breathtaking political hubris, the UK Government passed over the Acorn carbon capture project in one of Europe’s biggest energy producing areas, Aberdeen. The Scottish Cluster – comprised of major industrial emitters, as well Acorn’s developers Storegga Geotechnologies, Shell and Harbour Energy – would have been an obvious choice for the technology. Instead, the UK Government decided to invest in marginal constituencies in the North of England. They demonstrated they cannot be trusted to help Scotland realise its potential to become the renewables powerhouse of northern Europe. 

3 For Scotland to realise its green energy potential requires a massive investment in the national grid

Scotland could power the whole UK and more. The Northern Isles alone could power the whole of Scotland. Right now, wind farms in Orkney have to pay financial penalties for creating more energy than the outdated grid can take. It doesn't matter how much tidal, wind and hydro energy they can produce, it is worthless - even a negative cost - without an efficient, renewables-based grid. The UK’s privatised National Grid is still configured around coal-fired power stations in the north of Engand that no longer exist. Creating a grid that could support Scotland’s transition to green power would require a multi-billion investment. 

Robert Gordon University recently calculated that for Aberdeen to become a global hub for renewable energy would take a £17 billion investment - and the money needs to start coming in now.  The ‘Making the Switch’ review says that “urgent capital investment” is urgent - without it the UK will miss its climate targets and Aberdeen will miss the boat. Yet the UK Government is investing only paltry, tiny sums for this important work.  Instead, the UK Government passed a law putting a levy on all UK energy bills to fund outdated and increasingly expensive nuclear power that Scotland doesn’t need.

If Scotland was independent and produced 100% of its own energy requirement from cheaper renewable sources it could provide cheaper energy across the country. There are many ways to store renewable power nowadays - including pumped storage hydro. 

4 Scotland’s economy is visibly shrinking due to Brexit

The Centre for European Reform (CER) has concluded that by the end of last year the UK economy was 5.2%, or £31 billion, smaller than it would have been if the UK was still in the EU. 

Scotland is being hit worse than other areas of the UK. It has one of the oldest populations in the world, with an average age 42, two years higher than the UK average, and no immigration levers. Losing free movement and the pool of EU nationals who could come here to work means that hotels across the Highlands and islands are restricted to residents only for dinner; or even shut; restaurants are shut more of the time; care homes are reducing capacity and crops are not being planted

5 Northern Ireland’s economy is growing - Scotland’s isn’t

Data released by the Office of National Statistics ONS this week shows that Northern Ireland is doing way better than Scotland. It is outperforming all the rest of the UK, except for London. Only those two regions have gone back into economic growth since the pandemic. 

That is because Northern Ireland is protected from some of the worst effects of Brexit on trade by the NI Protocol. It still has a foot in the single market while also trading freely with the UK. 

After the Brexit vote, the Scottish Government suggested a compromise position which would mean Scotland having a similar half-in, half-out status to Nothern Ireland but that was rejected out of hand. 

6 The UK has the worst inflation in G7 - and the worst economic growth in the  G20 bar Russia

The 9% rise in the UK consumer price index is the highest since records began in 1989, outstripping the 8.4% annual rise posted in March 1992 and well ahead of the 7% seen in March of this year.

The UK is expected to have the highest inflation in the G7 not just this year but also in 2023 and 2024, according to economists. A Financial Times analysis of the causes of price increases across the world’s leading economies shows that Britain — where the inflation rate hit a 40-year high of 9 per cent in April — combines the worst aspects of other G7 countries. 

The OECD has predicted that the UK will have the worst economic growth of any G20 country bar Russia. The reason things are so bad for the UK is Brexit. 

7 The pound has lost 20% of its value - pushing inflation upwards

Since the Brexit vote, sterling has been on the slide and has lost 20% of its value. Oil is priced in dollars and is bought on the international markets - so petrol, heating oil, fertiliser and many other vital imports cost more and that adds to inflation. 

Mathew Lynn wrote in the Daily Telegraph recently: “We can no longer rule out that sterling will fall all the way to parity with the dollar for the first time in its history. Our departure from the European Union has worsened the trade deficit at precisely the wrong moment. It hit £278bn in the first quarter of the year, the highest figure on record, and equivalent to 1.8pc of GDP….this is a big enough deficit to merit concern about the stability of sterling.” 

8 The UK Government is squeezing Scotland’s budget - and it has to spend millions mitigating UK policies

The Scottish Fiscal Commission confirmed in December that: “Overall the Scottish Budget in 2022-23 is 2.6 percent lower than in 2021-22. After accounting for inflation the reduction is 5.2 percent.”

The situation is significantly worse The Scottish government gets no extra money in recognition of the huge sums being raised from taxing Scottish assets. Instead, it has to spend almost £600m, from its limited, fixed budget, mitigating policies which are out of step with Scotland’s electoral choices and designed to make life harder for the poor - such as the bedroom tax and the so-called rape clause which limits benefits to just two children per family. 

9 Loss of EU support for the Highland and Islands, food production and education

Scotland’s universities are being debarred from applying as associate members to the EU’s Horizon fund, the biggest science funding stream in the world. In the first retaliation for the UK Government’s posturing over the Northern Ireland protocol and Brexit, the EU has barred the UK from applying. Scotland's unis will lose a billion Euros

The Highlands and Islands are also set to lose large sums of money in vital funding - it seems the UK Government mislead voters when it promised to match at least the EU structural funds - its current plans won't do that. The structural funding is just one stream of EU support among many - and as the EU recognises "peripherality" which the UK Government doesn't, the Highlands and islands looks set to be a heavy loser from Brexit. Agriculture also looks set to lose out as the replacement for CAP won’t be as generous - more of the cost of food production will be paid by the consumer, and less by the taxpayer. 

10 The UK Government broke its promise on the triple lock, exposing pensioners to inflation and poverty

The UK Government broke its manifesto commitment to raise pensions in line with average wage growth at the worse possible time. Prices have soared. Pensioners, particularly those who are ill or disabled, are especially exposed to hardship caused by rising energy prices. Inflation on basic foodstuffs is also affecting their quality of life. Pensions rose by just 3% this April while inflation is running at around 9%. Even if the triple lock were reinstated in the autumn it would leave pensioners worse off and how could we trust the UK Government's pension promises ever again?

Scotland can no longer afford to sit by and let Westminster decide

An independent Scotland would be smaller and more agile than the UK, it could start making better decisions for Scotland on day one of independence. It could make decisions that are in line with the electoral priorities of Scots, such as rejoining the EU. It could use taxes raised on Scotland's assets to invest in the infrastructure that is needed for the next century of energy production.

Three Reasons Westminster's Energy Strategy Doesn’t Work for Scotland

The UK Government announced a new energy strategy this week. This concentrates investment in nuclear power. Scots householders will have to pay for that - but Scotland doesn’t need it. The country has more than enough renewables for all its electricity needs and more. 

Instead, Scotland urgently needs a transformation of the UK's electricity transmission system which does not serve Scotland's needs.  It also needs more investment in energy efficiency and demand reduction

Here are the three key reasons Westminsters energy strategy doesn't work for Scotland.

1 The UK’s privatised national grid system does not serve Scotland well

Many people assume that the UK’s energy grid is a publicly-owned asset, managed by the UK Government. It is not. It was privatised in 1980, under Margaret Thatcher. 

National Grid Transco PLC is a London-based company that operates in the UK and US. It is enormously profitable. It employees 12,000 people worldwide and made £15 billion in revenue last year. It recently sold a majority stake in the UK's gas transmission and metering business for £2 billion to a consortium led by Macquarie Group. National Grid said this move was part of its transition to low-carbon and that it would: 

"Enable National Grid to maintain a strong balance sheet with its strong investment grade credit rating, supporting its sustainable dividend policy".

Last week, the UK Government announced plans to buy back the part of National Grid Transco PLC that oversees the UK’s electricity systems which it also builds and operates. The Government is not disclosing how much it is paying for this partial renationalisation, which attracted little news coverage. 

National Grid Transco PLC owns and manages the grid infrastructure in England and Wales. It also manages the transmission system in Scotland - although the ownership lies with Scottish Power and SSE, a situation which appears to make investment in the Scottish grid less attractive. Scottish energy companies are charged ten times what English companies have to pay to connect to the grid. 

Shortly after the Scottish Government licensed a huge amount of offshore wind earlier this year, National Grid said it had no plans to connect most of this to the grid for at least a decade. 

SEC’s energy briefing reported

“The recent ScotWind auction of 25GW of Scottish offshore wind potential - enough wind energy to power the equivalent of 23 million homes per year - demonstrates the risk (from the grid). Within weeks of the auction being announced, National Grid/ESO declared it did not plan to connect more than 10GW of the successful projects. This left billions of pounds of investment and clean energy potential hanging in the wind.”

National Grid also makes profit from building and managing connectors that link the UK network to Europe. The way the UK mitigates against demand surges or supply shortfalls is to buy electricity at the spot price on the open market.

SSE commissioned independent research which found storing renewable energy in hydro facilities for when it is needed, could save UK bill-payers £690 million a year by 2050. But, like the other facilities that have been granted planning permission by the Scottish Government, it is unlikely to be built because of the lack of a market framework. SSE stated

“The study, by Imperial’s researchers, found that 75% of the savings to the energy system from projects like Coire Glas would be from the avoided capital expenditure in higher cost electricity generation technologies that would otherwise be needed to meet the UK’s target of carbon neutrality by 2050 whilst meeting security of supply. “Importantly, the report highlighted that despite all of the benefits which new pumped hydro storage projects would bring, the current policy and market framework is unlikely to bring forward investment in many new projects because the long duration and low carbon capability of pumped hydro storage is not sufficiently valued.”

2 The strategy pours billions into nuclear power - while making unrealistic claims about what that will achieve. 

The money that is invested in nuclear will come from energy consumers. It is predicted that consumers across the UK including Scotland will have to shell out £80 a year through their bills for this. The strategy document says the UK has: “committed to provide up to £1.7 billion of direct government funding to enable one nuclear project to FID (final investment decision) this Parliament.” It proposes up to 8 new nuclear reactors -  which will cost a total of £13 billion.

Unlike renewables, the cost of nuclear power is rising. When completed, Hinkley Point C will be one of the most expensive power stations in the world. The fuel it generates will cost £90 per MWh. The UK’s existing nuclear power costs £45 per MWh

Writing in Advanced Science News recently, global expert Professor MV Ramanda wrote:  “Although often blamed on public opposition, especially resulting from the devastating accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima, the main cause for the drop in nuclear power’s importance has been the steadily rising cost of nuclear reactors and the almost invariable tendency for project construction costs and time to escalate dramatically.”

The UK Government also plans to invest £120 million on smaller reactors.  Professor Ramana wrote:

“Private industry is not going to take the risk of paying for production lines and buying large numbers of reactors that could well prove uneconomic. So, it will be public money, as it nearly always has been the case with nuclear power, that will be risked.”

The UK Gov strategy, however, ignores current science and harks back to a 1950s vision of nuclear power. However, It does not mention that in 1957, a fire at Windscale nuclear plant spread radioactive material throughout Europe. The UK Government still spends £3 billion a year keeping this site, now known as Sellafield, safe.

3 There is no well-funded commitment to improving energy efficiency and insulating homes in the strategy

A large-scale energy efficiently drive would benefit consumers struggling with energy and cost of living crises. But instead of new measures, the strategy repackages existing schemes. It also relies on householders borrowing money to insulate their homes. 

The strategy voices the UK Government's faith in the free market:

“This is not being imposed on people and is a gradual transition following the grain of behaviour. The British people are no-nonsense pragmatists who can make decisions based on the information.”

The SEC Energy Strategy Briefing concluded:

“The UK’s net-zero 2050 target as already looking under pressure. Without more incentives to consumers and business to reduce demand for energy…that target looks further away than ever.”

Like the UK, Scotland has some of the least energy-efficient homes in Europe. Much of rural Scotland doesn’t have access to the gas network - and electricity is priced in a way that makes their bills far higher than the average. They also have to pay higher standing charges than most of England. 

Scotland does not share the UK Government’s nuclear vision. But Scots will still have to pay for it - and the Scottish Government is deprived of the decision-making power to invest in the energy priorities that the Scottish people choose. In short, energy bills will be cheaper in an independent Scotland and the energy sector far more environmentally friendly.