Energy Bill

Written evidence submitted by Struan Stevenson (EB 24)

1. I served as a Conservative Euro MEP for Scotland from 1999 until 2014. I was Chairman of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq, President of the Fisheries Committee and President of the Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development Intergroup.

2. The SNP government’s ambitious target to cut CO2 emissions and at the same time, "re-industrialise" Scotland, mostly through the erection of thousands of giant wind turbines, has proved to be both ludicrously inefficient and hugely costly. The derisory amount of power wind turbines produce when the wind isn’t blowing will leave us vulnerable to blackouts. The wind may blow for free in Scotland, but harnessing it as a power source at the public's expense is nothing short of economic folly and may indeed cause our lights to go out one day.

3. The SNP-led Scottish Government was elected because the people of Scotland trusted them to create and administer public policy on their behalf. They were trusted to spend taxpayers' money wisely and they were trusted to provide a secure supply of energy to their electorate. This government has betrayed that trust. They have hijacked energy policy as a vehicle for political rather than economic gain. They have caused our electricity and heating bills to skyrocket and they have forced over a third of Scottish homes into crippling fuel poverty.

4. Having trumpeted their intention to achieve 100% electricity generation from renewables by 2020 in Scotland, they have found themselves on a political juggernaut that is hard to stop. Now, despite mounting public opposition and clear evidence that their obsession with wind power is unsustainable, they plough on regardless, determined to save political face at any cost.

5. They are currently attempting completely to replace fossil fuels and nuclear power with renewable energy. They seem not to realise that commercially available renewable technologies simply cannot provide energy security. Giant industrial wind turbines are visual monstrosities that produce a trickle of electricity at vast cost to the consumer. They don't significantly reduce CO2 emissions and they threaten to plunge us into an energy crisis, just as we try to drag ourselves out of a financial crisis.

6. We know that every single megawatt of generating capacity from windfarms has to be matched by a reliable, affordable back-up supply for when the wind is either not blowing or blowing too hard. The proven, currently available technologies are gas, coal or nuclear. But nobody from the Scottish Government is planning for new coal or gas capacity and they have made their position quite clear about nuclear, which they totally oppose.

7. Families were driven from the Highlands to make way for sheep during the infamous Highland Clearances. Now the threat of a rural landscape devoid of people has arisen again. But this time it's not the lure of profits from mutton and wool that threatens our unique Scottish landscape. It is the Scottish Government’s obsession with wind power and the steady march of giant wind turbines across our hills and glens that will drive away the tourists and leave a dwindling rural population struggling to survive.

8. It is also unbelievable that supporters of renewables seek to justify this environmental catastrophe with weasel words about Scotland becoming a European leader in clean, green energy. There is nothing clean or green about marching huge steel pylons across mountain landscapes and past some of Scotland's most historic castles and battlefields. The left-Green lobby spread the myth that turbines will end our dependency on fossil fuels. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, windfarms commit us to a fossil fuel future due to the need for constant baseload backup from gas-fired or coal-fired power plants, which have to be kept permanently ticking over so that they can kick in when the wind drops.

9. The Scottish Government proclaims that exploiting Scotland’s renewables potential is a national priority of the highest order and yet they have no coherent national plan, no programme or landscape capacity assessment of any sort and there is no national database or plan of what is happening on the ground, other than generalised figures of consented and installed capacity.

10. Nor is there any objective assessment and analysis of the actual environmental and economic benefits or effects, including the claimed benefits or effects associated with Habitat Management Plans. Everything is based on generalised assumptions and those who question these assumptions are dismissed as heretics.

11. The unreliability of wind means that we will have to rely on fossil-fuel coal and gas stations for baseload backup, and they will add to CO 2 emissions. With five-time higher targets than the rest of the UK for 100% electricity generation from renewables by 2020, Scotland will be trapped in an unsustainable timebomb of rising costs, fuel poverty, ruined landscapes and lost jobs.

12. And the energy companies are even paid for NOT producing electricity. The money just pours in, whether the turbines are operating or not. UK and Scottish consumers' money has been paid out to energy companies to keep their turbines switched off because the grid was overloaded! This is quite simply scandalous.

13. Indeed in countries where industrial wind power has been added to the grid in any volume, consumer costs have rocketed. The two countries with the highest numbers of installed commercial wind turbines, Germany and Denmark, now have the highest electricity bills in Europe.

14. One of the less attractive features of the wind rush in Scotland has been the tendency for the big energy companies to offer 'community benefit' payments to the unwitting citizens who have to live with the visual, environmental and health impact consequences of an industrialised landscape. In any other business environment, such payments, offered always during the planning process and designed specifically to buy off protests, would be considered as bribes. Those offering and accepting such payments would in other circumstances normally be charged with a serious criminal offence. But in the fantasy world of burgeoning windfarms, such bribes are commonplace.

15. Thus, wind power is increasing energy costs and forcing energy-intensive companies to leave the country. No amount of subsidies will solve this because wind power just isn't competitive, it isn't affordable and it isn't reliable. Subsidies should therefore be ended for on-shore and off-shore wind turbines.

January 2016

 

Prepared 2nd February 2016