Wind power plans are full of hot
Executive, slavishly following the lead of the Department of Trade and Industry,
has mistakenly thirled itself to over-ambitious proposals to replace 40 per cent
of Scotland’s electricity system with renewables without being able to
articulate any coherent strategy for doing so.
For the foreseeable
future, the vast majority of new renewables generating capacity seems likely to
be from onshore wind.
There is a fundamental contradiction between
energy being reserved to Westminster while renewables policy is devolved.
This botched division of powers frustrates effective strategic
decision-making and has resulted in a shambles, placing power in the hands of
The Executive has given effect to its so-called
renewables policy by way of a substantial levy called the Renewables Obligation
The ROS subsidises renewables by financial instruments
called Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs). The net result is that
consumers pay a stealth tax, not to government, but directly to the electricity
Experience already shows that the Executive has misplaced
confidence in the ability of a subsidised market to guarantee success.
Ministers seem to expect that a stable nationwide system can be cobbled
together by private developers, driven by the incentive of ROS subsidy and the
happenstance of willing landlords and easy grid connection.
as technology balance, transmission losses, security of supply and cumulative
environmental impact are hardly considered in any of the official publications.
Any reasonable person would conclude that replacement of 40 per cent of the
electricity system is likely to have substantial consequences.
there is no collaboration among local planning authorities, it is obvious that
separate, locally-defined search areas do not add up to a coherent strategy at
The Executive should also note the widespread anxiety in the
engineering community over current renewables "policy" and it should recognise
the potential social and economic consequences of any failure of electricity
Denmark has a wind penetration of approximately 18 per cent,
but, despite the advantage of being integrated into the wider European grid, it
continues to suffer from grid instability.
The Republic of Ireland, an
island grid with a wind penetration of less than seven per cent, currently has a
moratorium on connection of new wind power for reasons of stability and security
MINISTERS’ failure to accept strategic responsibility for
this key industry raises serious questions of competence and judgement.
What needs to happen now is for Scottish ministers to cease their
piecemeal tinkering with the electricity system until they are able to exhibit a
competent strategic plan that includes satisfactory provision for contingency
and security of supply.
The Executive’s ambitious renewables proposals
are domestic targets only and have no basis in any considered feasibility or
other empirical study.
They were ramped up to these heady levels as a
result of "greener than thou" posturing by parties vying for political
It would be tragic if Scotland now suffered unnecessary
damage in a wind rush intended to save political face.
technologies likely to be deployed on a large scale, wind is the least effective
in the medium or long term. It suffers from low energy density, inability to
store electricity and random intermittency.
To be at all effective, wind
power must be deployed very extensively and with a disproportionately high
It is at once the lowest quality of all
renewables, and the most expensive, when costs of duplicate plant and back-up
nuclear and fossil fuels are included.
Despite the wind industry’s
grotesquely inflated claims, the prospects for emissions avoidance using wind
power are dismal, mainly due to the back-up plant that is generally polluting
even when not generating.
Denmark, with the highest penetration of wind
in the European Union, has the greatest deficit of any member state in its Kyoto
commitments - and its greenhouse gas emissions are rising.
I reject the
absurd proposition that a wind rush is a necessary prerequisite for the
development of other renewables technologies.
On the contrary, an
environmentally damaging and ultimately ineffective deployment of wind power
will only alienate the public from the concept of renewables - as it is doing
now - and choke off investment vital to the development of superior
The wind option incurs extensive adverse environmental
impact for the dubious "benefit" of a third-rate duplication technology.
The current folly of wind power is encouraged by the ROC subsidy and the
hugely lucrative short-term profits it hands to private developers.
UK’s Kyoto commitments are already met and Scotland is - almost uniquely - in
the enviable position of being able to look to the long term and practise
It does not have to subsidise a piecemeal,
unsustainable and ultimately futile rush for wind.
One has to ask why
officials and politicians cannot see that, and it begs the very question of
Current renewables policy is non-existent, beyond the
vague articulation of specious targets which have no meaning.
technology is third-rate, inefficient, unreliable, intermittent, grotesquely
imposing and achieves the very opposite of that which is intended.
are being failed by the Executive and our politicians, who cannot see beyond the
"green" chimera of a few whirling pale intruders traversing our countryside,
killing our birds, deterring tourists and making the power companies very rich
at our expense.
And all the while, power reserves run down, the best
technical minds in the country give clear and unambiguous advice of the
unpardonable folly of it all, and our leaders choose to take no notice.
• John Campbell QC is an
advocate at the Scottish Bar