It is a measure of how precarious our electricity supply industry has become that National Grid has put in place precautionary measures to protect us from the possibility of black-outs in the months ahead.
Large industrial users of power would be paid to accept cut-offs if this gloomy eventuality looks like arising over the coming winter.
Mothballed gas-fired plants are also being pressed back into service in order to widen the safety margin between supply and demand. In other words, we are now weather-dependent.
If ever there was a slow motion crisis in the making, it is this one. For at least a dozen years, the risk of power-cuts by the middle of this decade has been warned against.
And as the date has drawn nearer, we have continued to be surrounded by prevarication and short-term responses, both from governments and the market.
The one thing we do not have, either in Scotland or the UK as a whole, is a coherent energy policy based on the over-riding imperative of maintaining security of supply.
The mantra that “the market will provide” is useless when the market is entirely dependent on short-term thinking and state subsidies.
In 1990, privatised power companies inherited a heavily over-supplied market. Very little genius was required on their part to turn that happy state of affairs, which made perfect sense under a state monopoly but none at all within a supposedly competitive market, into vast and continuing profits.
Not only was there no urgent necessity to invest but there was an advantage in driving capacity out of the system in order to force prices up.
This was dramatically illustrated in 2002, on my watch as Energy Minister, when nuclear British Energy essentially went bust because of low wholesale prices. As usual in our “privatised” economy, it was the taxpayer who picked up the tab to keep it afloat.
Although it was crystal clear that new generation was required, as well as consumer-funded infrastructure to strengthen and expand our transmission network, none of this happened on the scale required.
The focus on renewables diverted attention from the fact that it is baseload which should take priority and, whatever the other virtues of renewables (which essentially means wind-power) that is not among them.
The debate was skewered in both Scotland and the UK as a whole by an irrational hostility to civil nuclear power – the source of generation which has, for the past half century, not only kept Scotland’s lights on but also made us a substantial net exporter of electricity.
But not for much longer.
I recently took part in an energy debate with Fergus Ewing, the Holyrood energy minister, and was startled to hear his admission that they are now counting on nuclear to maintain security of supply up until 2030.
This will be entirely dependent on the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate allowing Hunterston and Torness to remain operational.
Hunterston B, which is due to close in 2023 after 47 years sterling service, is already on its second life extension while Torness will also need its licence renewed beyond the same date.
So for another 15 years, the entire Scottish energy policy – if that is not too strong a word – is founded on old nuclear stations being kept going, which is by no means certain, while Salmond and Co maintain their anti-nuclear public posturing.
The hypocrisy is breathtaking.
What it means is that the Scottish Government, for all its largely empty rhetoric about renewables, does not have a clue about how to keep the lights on up to 2030 other than to rely on the very technology which they are so anxious to denounce.
How much better if they had got behind a Hunterston C and created thousands of Scottish jobs in the process?
Not that the Nationalists were alone in pursuing the anti-nuclear fad. It was much in vogue in Labour circles during my own time in government and I had few allies in arguing for a balanced energy policy.
Gas was to be the great elixir, notwithstanding that we had just become net importers of the stuff and increasingly dependence would not be on benign suppliers like Norway but distinctly dodgy ones, mainly Russia.
Now, mainly by default, that is the position we are returning to. Coal is temporarily keeping the lights on – over 40% of our electricity comes from a source that was supposed to be on the way out for environmental reasons.
Instead, the knock-on from oil and gas fracking in the US has made coal cheap on the global markets, hence its resurgence.
Strangely, we hear little from the environmentalists about that turnaround.
But what could they say with any credibility?
It was they who promoted a grossly exaggerated reliance on renewables while joining in the demonising of low-carbon nuclear.
Renewables haven’t delivered – and won’t at any cost within the bounds of reason – and nuclear is on the wane with new-build still uncertain.
So we are back to coal and gas, or indeed any stop-gap solution that will keep the show on the road.
In Scotland, we only have increasingly threadbare boasts about what renewables will deliver when there is little sign of them delivering anything more than the uncertainties which are inherent in over-reliance on onshore wind.
The one sure thing is that this policy will turn us into major net importers of electricity from England, including nuclear power.
The public rationale for privatisation of the electricity industry always depended on there being a strong regulator to counter the greed and short-termism of the power companies.
Instead, we have had a weak regulator, a ruthless cartel of private companies and a total lack of consistency in the policies of Government.
For 25 years, the privatised electricity companies have lived off the infrastructure legacy from the old state-run industry.
It is long past time for a regime in which private profit is subordinated to public interest and the entire sector is given clear guidelines within which to operate, with security of supply as the non-negotiable first priority.