Tom Greatrex: The political masters of Holyrood have a contradictory stance on power generation. I am never quite clear why the government department that is now BEIS publish the latest breakdown of how power was generated to the grid a few days before Christmas, but it does mean there is less attention than there should be on what those changes show us. For those concerned to see the Holyrood climate targets being met, and who understand the need to effectively decarbonise electricity if we are going to get anywhere close, then there is a lot to be positive about – with the amount of power produced by low carbon sources in Scotland breaking through the 75% barrier in 2015. A combination of established hydro schemes (11%), intermittent renewables (mostly wind) (31%) and baseload nuclear (35%) put Scotland well ahead of the UK overall (but getting through 50% for the third quarter of 2016 across the UK is a good measure too). When we have such variability as was demonstrated in the first fortnight in December between record high and next to no wind power generated, then that requires baseload power to both keep the grid functioning and offset that intermittency effect. Fortunately, we have two reliable nuclear power stations doing just that. While on one day in four, when wind is scarce, power flows from south of the border to north through the grid, it makes little sense to further entrench that imbalance in Scotland’s generation mix. The problem is, of course, that with almost no thermal generation left, and those two low carbon baseload power stations coming towards retiral dates even after lifetime extensions in the years ahead, there is a looming issue to address. However, long after current and former First Ministers have been and gone, the implications of their forthcoming decisions on energy will be felt. When there is seemingly an instincive attraction to the nonsensical position of simultaneously increasing renewable capacity but at the same time failing to reduce the carbon intensity of the power produced, as in Germany, then it is impossible to draw any other conclusion than justifying that prejudice is more important than decarbonising the power supply.
Energy Voice 24th Dec 2016 read more »