Tim Pauling, 10th December 2012
Shifting our reliance on conventional power-stations towards renewable energy is a win-win situation as far as the Scottish Government is concerned.
First Minister Alex Salmond is happy to point out that Scotland is better placed than anywhere in Europe to harness the power of the sea and wind.
Not only will the push towards green power help save the planet, it will create thousands of jobs – 48,000 in the offshore sector alone over the next decade.
Investment in wind, wave and tidal energy is moving apace. The government target to generate 35% of electricity from renewables by 2015 was passed last year by 4%.
There are 11,000 jobs in the sector and investment of £2.3billion announced last year.
Not everyone is convinced of the economic merits of renewable energy. Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, said government policymakers should be wary of the “extreme cost” and the public backlash. Households were worried about escalating energy costs and renewable energy subsidies.
Mr Peiser warned that reliance on renewable energy could backfire as business relocated to countries where energy costs were lower.
“The main reason we are opposed to expensive renewables is economic,” he said.
“If windfarms and solar panels would generate electricity to a competitive price then we would be in favour, but they are two times, three times, sometimes four times more expensive that conventional energy and will make the country less competitive.”
Mr Peiser said the problem with renewable energy is that it is intermittent and must be supported by conventional generation.
There is enough natural gas for the next 100 years and it is comparatively clean compared to coal, he said.
His argument is supported by the US which has drastically reduced its dependence on foreign petroleum thanks to the burst of oil shale production.
“We had the industrial revolution in this country due to cheap energy,” Mr Peiser said.
“Every country that is going for the most expensive form of energy, which is renewables, will pay a hefty price in loss of competitiveness, industry moving abroad and families increasingly in fuel poverty.”
Niall Stuart, chief executive of the industry body Scottish Renewables, said the country had a “moral responsibility” to reduce carbon emissions.
Mr Stuart said: “Supporting the growth of the renewable energy industry not only helps us tackle climate change, but also brings benefits such as driving investment in our economy, creating much-needed jobs and training opportunities. We see no credible evidence to suggest we should do otherwise.”
Environment and Climate Change Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “The Scottish Government is committed to meeting our climate-change targets and to building a strong, robust Scotland, resilient to a changing climate.
“These actions will not only help to reduce the risks to Scotland posed by climate change, but will also secure significant economic benefits and opportunities for Scotland,” added the minister.