Select Committee on Scottish Affairs Second Report

Conclusions and recommendations

1.  As a matter of urgency before any final, irreversible, decisions on what sorts of power generation are the most appropriate for Scotland are taken, we recommend that the Government undertake an audit of the energy resources that are currently available, and then to use that as a basis to work out the energy requirements that will be needed in the future. (Paragraph 15)

2.  Given the timescale and uncertainty of "emerging technologies" the Committee consider that it is unwise to assume that they can meet a quarter of the renewable proportion of Scotland's energy needs. We would urge that further research and development is urgently required to ascertain their viability. (Paragraph 22)

3.  Given the vast reserves of coal within the United Kingdom, it must have a part to play in meeting our future energy needs; therefore, coal-burning power stations in the UK must be fitted with the equipment necessary to capture carbon dioxide and sulphur. The Committee recommends that the Government shows its commitment to the future of the UK coal industry by agreeing to underwrite the cost of providing and installing such equipment at coal-burning power stations. (Paragraph 27)

4.  The major problem with nuclear fusion, which appears to be a particularly benign and efficient way of producing electricity, is that it will not be available until nearly the mid-21st century. As the UKAEA witnesses stated, it is 30 years, at least, before a commercial fusion reactor would be available. Nevertheless, nuclear fusion could be a major source of power in the not too far distant future, although more research may be required. (Paragraph 32)

5.  The Scottish Executive must clarify its position and state whether the "40 per cent renewables" refers to generation or consumption. (Paragraph 36)

6.  The Committee agrees that the debate is not about renewables vs. conventional as both will be needed. The energy audit recommended by the Committee must, therefore, be on the basis that all current forms of energy, whether renewable, fossil fuel or nuclear, will be necessary. (Paragraph 37)

7.  The Committee recommends that a fundamental, and immediate, review of the transmission charging regime takes place. (Paragraph 41)

8.  The best way of ensuring that Scotland's energy supply is maintained is by conserving energy. We therefore commend the Government's current Energy Efficiency campaign, particularly the television advertisements which seek to convince the British people that one person can indeed make a difference by simply switching off, eg, an unused light or lamp. (Paragraph 42)

9.  We commend those companies who, under the Energy Efficiency Commitment, are helping priority households to lower their energy costs by providing them with free loft and cavity wall insulation, and those builders who are incorporating, solar panels, for example, as standard in or on their new build homes and office blocks. (Paragraph 43)

10.  We call upon the Government to continue to improve through national regulations, the standard of building construction, both commercial and residential to ensure that maximum energy efficiency is realised. The Committee was impressed in its visit to the San Francisco Public Utility Company at their efforts to ensure that minimising energy use was integral to the city's planning processes for development. We accordingly recommend that the government provide tax incentives such as reductions in VAT, to encourage a rigorous energy audit before any substantial development so that the developer works towards a zero or minimal net energy demand. This should be extended to existing homes. (Paragraph 44)

11.  We concur absolutely with the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee's conclusions on the management of nuclear waste; we hope that the Lords Committee, and this Committee's successor, will keep the matter under review, and ensure that neither CoRWM nor the Government allow the July 2006 target date for a final decision on how to manage such waste to be missed. (Paragraph 54)

12.  We consider that UKAEA, in conjunction with its partners, is doing all it can to assist its loyal and skilled Dounreay workforce who are facing an unsure future. We consider also that the Government should stand ready to listen to any proposals put forward by UKAEA or the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority etc to ensure that the workforce are given all possible support. In addition, Dounreay contributes approximately £80 million into the Highlands through salaries, pensions, contracts and sub-contracts. Caithness and the rest of the Highland Region must be assisted also to overcome the problems which could ensue in a few years' time. (Paragraph 63)

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