A PUBLICLY owned energy company as proposed by the Scottish Government presents significant opportunities to show leadership in developing renewable and low-carbon energy supplies, as well as tackling climate change and other environmental issues, according to a new report. Powering Our Ambitions, from the Common Weal think tank, also suggested the new company could address the need to provide low-cost, low or zero-carbon energy to Scotland’s fuel poor and other vulnerable householders. Their report looks at the role of a Scottish National Energy Company (NEC) and sets out the case for a Scottish Energy Development Agency (SEDA). Report authors – Dr Keith Baker, Gordon Morgan, Dr Ron Mould and Iain Wright – warn that it would be a “serious missed opportunity” if the NEC was simply seen as a publicly owned energy supply company, which would have “limited opportunities” to tackle such problems and only a “slight effect” in lowering retail fuel costs. They also want a SEDA to be set up as a commercial entity alongside the NEC, which would be regulated by Ofgem until a Scottish regulator was established. “This dual approach should largely mirror the successful approach adopted by the Danish Energy Agency,” they said. A fundamental aim of the NEC should be the strategic development and delivery of new zero or low-carbon energy supplies to the fuel-poor or otherwise vulnerable households, and to rural, remote and disadvantaged communities. This would bring the development of local, sustainable fuel supply chains – which included solar, wind, solar thermal, geothermal, suitable biomass and hydro – into the NEC’s remit. The authors suggested that the new company should seek to enable, “rather than compete with”, other non-profit and community-controlled energy companies. They added: “But the Scottish Government should, with urgency, look at the assets and infrastructure of the recently closed down Our Power business to see if these might be purchased or acquired to form some of the necessary infrastructure of the NEC.” Craig Dalzell, Common Weal head of policy, said: “Scotland stands on the brink of a renewables revolution that will dwarf anything that could be gained from the remaining extractable oil assets. Scotland is well placed to lead the world to a carbon neutral future. But to do this it must harness its own energy potential and begin the transformations required. This cannot be left to ‘the market’. “Common Weal’s new policy paper … shows how a national energy company and an energy development agency can transform the energy sector from root to branch in order to secure that future as well ensuring that the words ‘fuel poverty’ are forever banished from Scotland.”
The National 8th Feb 2019 read more »
THE Scottish Government has set ambitious targets for decarbonising Scotland and tackling fuel poverty, but these ambitions risk failure without some significant innovations when it comes to buildings and transport. One is their commitment to establishing a publicly owned National Energy Company (NEC) to help transform the energy system and markets. However, it is unclear how it will undertake that task. In our paper Powering Our Ambitions, Common Weal sets out how we believe the NEC should be established and develop over time and, more importantly, how Scotland’s energy policy-making would benefit from establishing a Scottish Energy Development Agency (SEDA). This dual-track approach would mirror the success of the Danish Energy Agency. We believe this can help revitalise moves to rapidly decarbonise Scotland and overcome the problems that arise from viewing the NEC as purely an energy supply company. Witness the sad demise of Our Power – largely funded by the Scottish Government. The SEDA would prioritise and co-ordinate the distribution of funding related to energy R&D, strategic planning and overcoming the rural-urban fuel divide. These sums are considerable and may amount to over £500 million in 2018/19 and a further £1.25 billion in affordable housing and energy efficiency over four years, which must increase to meet climate change objectives. It would prioritise the training of experts in district heating technologies which have the potential to decarbonise heat in homes, offices and hospitals, alongside insulation where appropriate. It would work with local authorities, health boards, housing associations and other agencies to identify fuel-poor and vulnerable households and ensure schemes which meet their needs are prioritised. This would end the present system whereby authorities, in effect, bid for funding. A more holistic approach should enable the wider government’s social and economic objectives to be better incorporated. The SEDA would report directly to the Scottish Government. The NEC would initially act as a preferred contractor for suitable schemes prioritised by the SEDA, particularly district heating schemes, and would employ experts trained through the agency. Most district schemes are unlikely to be commercially attractive to competing energy firms, so the NEC would co-ordinate their construction and own and manage the infrastructure, in much the same way that Scottish Water does. This would ensure compliance with regulator Ofgem. Many technologies can fuel such schemes, notably large-scale solar thermal, geothermal, hydro and wind combined with inter-seasonal heat storage and heat recovery systems. Which is used will depend on the location, so part of the NEC’s role will include the development of local sustainable fuel supply chains.
The National 8th Feb 2019 read more »