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The answer to Scotland's energy security question is independence

Michael Glackin in the Sunday Times says the Russian invasion of Ukraine has changed UK energy security. The answer, he says, is to drill for more oil and gas, frack and build nuclear power plants.

He’s palpably excited about Boris’ new ‘energy supply strategy’ but when have the Conservatives ever come up with a strategy that benefited Scotland and not the City of London? Successive Westminster Governments of both colours have been reckless with the nation’s energy resources, having sold them off to the highest bidder decades ago to enrich private corporations and shareholders, and is the reason the UK has no energy security today. And the oil and gas the UK Government privatised belonged to Scotland, as does the vast majority of this island’s offshore wind, wave and tidal potential.  Nations like France and Norway were wiser, keeping control of their strategic energy resources so that today their governments are able to shield their citizens from the obscene profiteering by oil and gas companies, many of whom offshore their profits to avoid paying the full amount of tax owed on their operations here. 

Will Boris’ ‘energy supply strategy’ reinstate oil taxes the UK Government cut to zero in 2015, foregoing tens of billions in revenue and making the UK the most profitable place not only for Russian oligarchs to launder their money but also for Big Oil to operate? Doubtful. And you can forget fracking if you care at all for the environment. The US has discovered to its cost that fracking causes earthquakes and contaminates groundwater.

As for nuclear power, not only does Scotland not need it but also there are two big problems. There is no way to safely dispose of toxic nuclear waste. MPs have warned that the UK is storing an “extraordinary accumulation” of this hazardous waste in “outdated facilities” that will cost £70 billion to clean up. So it is a deal breaker, Mr. Glackin. Nuclear power is also uneconomic. A recent German study of nuclear power plants constructed around the world since 1951 found the average plant made a loss of 4.8 billion Euros. Small modular reactors (SMRs) like the ones Rolls Royce is pushing, won’t save the day. There’s just one SMR operating and it’s in Russia. The two SMRs in Wales and Cumbria have been mothballed. Because nuclear power is so expensive, not even private companies are willing to stick their necks out to finance these plants. That’s why the UK Government is forcing consumers to pay for the upfront costs of nuclear power plants with its Nuclear Energy Financing Bill. The number of politicians with commercial ties to the nuclear power industry may also explain the UK’s eagerness to have consumers bankroll this dangerous energy source.

Renewables are by far the cheapest, most abundant and cleanest source of energy. Even before the war in Ukraine, global oil and gas prices were higher than renewables and the price of wind, tidal and wave power hasn’t changed. Renewables generate nearly 100% of Scotland’s electricity and there’s capacity to develop far more, which England is going to need. Renewables projects can be developed quickly and are six times cheaper than gas generation. Yet the UK’s privatised Ofgem has stymied new renewables projects by its absurd charging regime whereby Scottish generators pay £7.36/MWh to connect to the grid but their English and Welsh counterparts pay just £0.49, and generators in southern England get a subsidy!

There’s also the small matter of cataclysmic climate change. Last month’s IPPC report excoriated the world’s governments for acting in a fragmented and incremental manner when transformational changes are needed to safeguard human wellbeing. If we fail to reduce emissions, the Ukrainian refugee crisis will be dwarfed by the exodus of people around the globe desperate to escape rising sea levels, devastating heat waves, wildfires, lack of food and water, illness and trauma from natural disasters. Increasing oil and gas production will only accelerate humanity’s suicide.

The facts are, Mr. Glackin, that Scotland doesn’t need a UK energy strategy that subsidises Big Oil and nuclear power. What Scotland needs is to restore its independence so it can forge its own energy strategy and provide its citizens with security, safety, affordability, jobs and a more sustainable and hopeful future.

Fuel Poverty vs Fuel Security: A story of two countries

The headlines are dominated by the soaring price of energy that will impact all UK citizens, especially those who are already struggling to survive. Even before the current crisis, over 3 million households were having to choose between heating and eating.

What they are not telling us is that across the Channel, it’s a different story. French President Macron just ordered EDF, the state energy company, to cap electricity prices at 4% to shield consumers. He can do this because the state owns 80% of the shares in the company that supplies the majority of power to French consumers.

Contrast that with the UK. Since the 1980s the government has sold off our energy resources (as well as the national grid, water, rail, buses, ports, and telecoms) to private companies. EDF is one of the foreign companies that bought a chunk and now owns over 10% of UK electricity production. Another 30% is owned by German, Spanish and Dutch companies.

Privatisation of our national assets has been a colossal failure for consumers and the environment, but a huge boon to private shareholders and company CEOs. Oil and gas giants BP and Shell are expected to announce huge increases in gas revenue that is boosted further by paying zero taxes for the past 3 years. Bernard Looney, BP chief executive who received £1.75 million last year, crowed the company is a “cash machine.”

As a result, UK consumers are looking at increases of 50% once the price cap is lifted in April. Ofgem, the energy regulator, must by law pass on rising costs to consumers.

This will be especially painful for Scottish consumers who already pay the highest transmission charges in the UK while England and Wales are subsidised. Plus, with just 8% of the population, Scotland produces 82% of total UK gas. What would this gas be worth if Scotland had control over its own energy resources? At least £22.5 billion, the sales value of Scottish oil and gas production in 2019.

And London tells Scotland it’s too wee and too poor to go it alone. One need only to look to Norway. It has channelled its oil and gas revenues into the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund that is now being used to fund a renewables revolution. Independence can’t come soon enough.

Scotland leads renewables' role in responding to climate change report 'red code'

SCOTLAND is serving as a leading example of how to switch power generation to renewable energy as the world’s largest ever report into climate change this morning delivered what has been described as a code red warning.

The climate change report was released this morning by an intergovernmental UN Panel. It has been called a ‘massive wake-up’ call to governments to cut emissions.

It comes as the latest data reveals Scotland is one of the top three European countries producing electricity from renewable sources. Figures for last year from the Scottish government show that 97% of Scotland’s electricity was produced from renewable sources

Our success at producing electricity from renewables is ahead of that of Sweden, Denmark and Germany. It’s also considerably better than the UK as a whole

That was a rise of 8% on the year before and has been calculated as the equivalent of powering all households in the country for almost three and a half years, charging almost 7 billion phones for a year, or running all Scottish fridges for more than eight years.

Our success at producing electricity from renewables is ahead of that of Sweden, Denmark and Germany. It’s also considerably better than the UK as a whole. Data published in March this year showed renewables generated  43% of the UK’s electricity in 2020.

A report by Greenmatch in March showed that offshore and onshore wind is the biggest source of renewable energy in the UK. It generates 13.8% more electricity than other renewable sources and beats the combined generation of coal, oil and others by 6.5%.

And Scotland is particularly rich in wind power resources. It has 25% of Europe’s entire offshore wind power resources.

The most powerful tidal-powered turbine in the world recently started to generate electricity via the grid in Orkney. The Orbital O2 has the capacity to meet the annual electricity demand of 2,000 homes for the next 15 years. It was sailed out of Dundee, where it was assembled over 18 months, in May and is now anchored in the Fall of Warness.

The most recent data cements Scotland’s position as a leading force in the development of green energy in the lead up to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference

Scotland also boasts 25% of Europe’s tidal energy resources and 10% of its wave energy potential. In 2018 it accounted for 24% of the UK’s renewable energy generation.

The most recent data cements Scotland’s position as a leading force in the development of green energy in the lead up to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference - known as COP26 - in Glasgow from October 31 to November 12.

That will be held in the shadow of a report published this morning which has been described as ‘a code red for humanity’. After the report was published UN secretary general Antonio Guterress said: ‘If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe. But as today’s report makes clear, there is no time for delay and no room for excuses.

‘I count  on government leaders and all stakeholders to ensure COP26 is a success’.

Although the report says some effects of climate change - such as sea level rises – are irreversible there is new hope that deep cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases could stabilise rising temperatures.

According to the European Environment Agency the growth in renewable energy is one of the most successful measures driving down greenhouse gas emissions in Europe.

Scotland celebrates role as marine power pioneer

SCOTLAND’S reputation as a pioneer in the development of marine power was given a boost today as a tidal-powered turbine hailed as the most powerful in the world started to generate electricity.

It's yet another example of how Scotland’s abundant green energy resources give it the potential to prosper as an independent country.

Here are five things you need to know about the latest development and about marine power in Scotland.

1: The Orbital 02 turbine is generating electricity via the grid in Orkney. It has the capacity to meet the annual electricity demand of 2,000 homes for the next 15 years. It is Orbital Marine Power’s first commercial turbine and the company has hailed it as a "major milestone". It is also providing power to an onshore electrolyser to generate green hydrogen, created using renewable energy instead of fossil fuels. Its only by-product is water.

Scotland is ideally placed to harness the enormous global market for marine energy whilst helping deliver a net-zero economy

Scottish energy secretary Michael Matheson today highlighted the country’s  "abundant natural resources, expertise and ambition,’ which he said ideally-placed it to ‘harness the enormous global market for marine energy whilst helping deliver a net-zero economy’. He added: "The deployment of Orbital Marine Power's O2 is a proud moment for Scotland and a significant milestone in our journey to net zero."

2: The 02 turbine was assembled in Dundee over 18 months and was sailed out of the city in May. The turbine was lowered on to a barge on the River Tay before it began its journey to Orkney. The O2 turbine attracted support through the ethical investment platform, Abundance Investment and also received £3.4m from the Scottish government's Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund.

3: The tidal turbine is 74m long and weighs 680 tonnes. It is now anchored in the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) Fall of Warness tidal test site. Orkney-based EMEC has become a major hub for the development of wave and tidal power. The turbine's superstructure floats on the surface of the water, with rotors attached to its legs which extract energy from the passing tidal flow.

4: Four turbines off the north coast of Scotland generated enough energy to power nearly 4,000 homes in 2019. MeyGen, the world’s largest tidal array, has completed the longest ever run of uninterrupted generation by a multi-megawatt tidal turbine.

The four giant turbines have exported more than 24.7 gigawatt hours (GWh) of predictable renewable power to the national grid. It was the first phase of a project that could eventually power 175,000 homes with more than 250 submerged turbines.

The array is off the mainland of Scotland, near the uninhabited island of Stroma.

Scotland has a huge offshore renewables potential, with an estimated 25% of Europe’s tidal resource

A 2016 estimate from the European Commission said wave and tidal power could account for 10% of the EU’s energy needs by 2050.

5: The Scottish government funds the Wave Energy Scotland (WES) technology programme, which has so far invested more than £30 million in more than 80 projects. Scotland has a huge offshore renewables potential, with an estimated 25% of Europe’s tidal resource, 25% of its offshore wind resource and 10% of its wave potential.

As offshore energy set to boom beware of second North Sea rip-off

Scotland’s massive potential to become a leading player in offshore energy has been underlined by two major reports this morning. But just as the new developments highlight the benefits they could bring to Scotland they also bring home the need to ensure the predicted boom is used to improve the lives of people who live here.

Forth Ports has today unveiled plans for £40million investment at Leith Docks which the company says could create at least 1000 jobs. It will provide essential infrastructure support for the predicted growth in the number of wind turbines which has been described as rivalling North Sea oil and gas.

And a report from Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University suggests the UK’s offshore workforce could increase from 160,000 to as many as 220,000 by 2030 – most of them involved in delivering low carbon energy.

The Forth Ports project aims to take advantage of the fact that Scotland has a quarter of the potential in wind resources in all of Europe.

It  involves the purchase of a large ship berth at Leith docks as part in what it plans to make Scotland's premier offshore energy park. The new berth will allow very large ships to offload long turbine blades and large towers. It will also allow floating turbines to be assembled there. It is understood that sugar silos and dockland buildings are already being demolished at the site.

The Aberdeen coastline features the world’s first floating array of wind turbines and more are under construction from Caithness to Aberdeenshire to Fife

The plan is part of a push by Forth Ports to win the status of ‘greenport’ for the docks, allowing tax free import and export activity.

The Aberdeen coastline features the world’s first floating array of wind turbines and more are under construction from Caithness to Aberdeenshire to Fife. The only large wind farm complete in Scottish waters is Beatrice in the Moray Firth. Scotland is currently on course to expand its offshore wind capability 11-fold before the end of the decade.

But steps need to be taken to avoid a repetition of the waste of North Sea oil and gas income, which saw vast amounts of money disappear into UK treasury reserves. Opportunities such as the setting up of  an oil fund similar to the massively successful Norwegian model were squandered. Instead the main beneficiaries were huge oil companies.

The only way to guarantee that the benefits from offshore energy are not once again thrown away by Westminster is to make sure the major decisions on our future are taken by an independent Scotland.

Forth Ports was bought by a Canadian pension fund manager in 2018.The company owns docks at Leith, Grangemouth, Rosyth, Dundee and the smaller Fife ports of Methil and Kirkcaldy, which used to be publicly owned. Now they are owned through Forth Ports by five pension funds which pay dividends  to Australian builders, Canadian soldiers and Mounties and English council workers.

There was more good news this morning for Scottish government targets to reduce then cut greenhouse gasses by 2045. A report by experts at Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University suggests offshore wind and carbon capture could account for almost two thirds of offshore jobs by 2030.

It says more than 90% of those already working in the oil and gas sector have ‘medium to high skills transferability’, allowing them switch to other parts of the offshore energy sector.

Energy transition offers a unique opportunity to create a net zero energy workforce

The review’s lead author, Professor Paul de Leeuw, said the north-east of Scotland already had much of the skills base and infrastructure for the transition from oil and gas to low carbon energy.

He said: ‘With many of the skills and competencies required for the offshore energy sector to be highly interchangeable, the energy transition offers a unique opportunity to create a net zero energy workforce.’

The Scottish government is committed to cutting greenhouse gases to net zero by 2045, thereby eliminating the country’s contribution to climate change.