Will sanity secure UK power supply

Rupert Soames.

Harsh reality threatens misty-eyed green dreams

excerpted from The Scotsman 13 November 2010 – h/t Andy

This is an adopted article.

THE “lights could go out” over Scotland unless new power stations are built in the next two years to ward off a looming electricity crisis, the head of one of Scotland’s most successful companies has warned Alex Salmond.

Rupert Soames, chief executive of power supply firm Aggreko, told the First Minister that the National Grid will lose a third of its capacity by 2018 as a string of nuclear, gas and oil-fired power stations across the UK are retired – including several in Scotland.

Mr Soames claimed that no other industrialised country in the world is at risk of losing so much of its energy supply at the same time – and without a realistic back-up plan.

Wishful thinking

He urged both the Scottish and UK governments to postpone green energy targets by a decade. Unless “the concrete is poured” on a new fleet of power stations within the next two years, Mr Soames warned, “we will be in serious danger of the lights going out”.

Mr Soames, the boss of the FTSE 100 firm – which has supplied energy for events including the World Cup and the Beijing Olympics – accused Scottish ministers of “wishful thinking” on renewable energy targets, which are among the most ambitious in the world.

“There is a danger in some quarters [in Scotland] of believing that if you wish things to be true, they will be true,” he told an audience of MSPs and business leaders at the annual Business in the Parliament conference in Edinburgh. He said: “Scotland might wish to be a major exporter of renewable energy to Europe, and might wish to see an interconnector built across the North Sea, but does anyone really believe that we can get one built in the next ten years?”

Mr Soames attacked politicians for being too focused on long-term targets several decades away, and for having no “Plan B” when it comes to addressing the threat of more immediate energy shortages.

“We may wish the replacement to be wind; we may wish it to be tidal; but wishing isn’t going to make it happen,” he said. “We need a Plan B.”

“At the moment we as a nation are turning up to meetings with the bank manager in jeans and a T-shirt that says: ‘Jesus loves you’,” he said.

“All of this leaves investors shaking their heads. The UK is in danger of becoming an unattractive place to invest in infrastructure.”

Mr Soames, the grandson of Winston Churchill, has long been a critic of the government’s failure to commission enough new power stations – but yesterday’s comments are expected to spark a fresh row over the Scottish Government’s ambitious renewables targets and its stringent anti-nuclear stance.

Alex Salmond

Scotland is committed to cutting carbon emissions by 42 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050.

Gavin Brown, energy spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives, said: “The SNP needs to listen to the CEO of one of Scotland’s most successful companies, a real energy expert, and find a credible policy for our energy needs.

“The chorus of criticism continues to grow against the SNP’s dogmatic stance on nuclear power. Alex Salmond is refusing to face facts.”

Niall Stuart, chief executive of trade body Scottish Renewables, admitted Scotland did face electricity supply problems in the short-term which could not be overcome solely through green energy generation, such as wind and tidal.

“Mr Soames is right in that we face massive challenges to replace the loss of existing generation in the network,” Mr Stuart told The Scotsman. “We will need a mixture of other forms of generation for the foreseeable future. However, what he completely fails to understand is that Scotland is part of the British network and we need to focus on our massive strengths and the economic and environmental benefit of renewables.

“Our research clearly shows Scotland can aim to be 100 per cent renewables in the medium-term.”

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10 Thoughts on “Will sanity secure UK power supply

  1. Andy on 14/11/2010 at 2:20 pm said:

    I should point out that I found this story via Richard North’s blog here


    He also has an interesting related story on the Western Isles scrapping their plans to build windfarms, because or the cost of the infrastructure required to connect the Isles to the mainland


    We should also note that the Isle of Eigg – a recently convert to 100% renewables – had to switch to diesel generator backup when they ran out of power recently.
    This is a taste of things to come, perhaps?

  2. Andy on 14/11/2010 at 5:25 pm said:

    Booker’s column today:

    The climate change scare is dying, but do our MPs notice?

    The collapse of the warmist position on climate change has not impinged on politicians in Britain or Brussels, says Christopher Booker.


    Compare and contrast with The Guardian’s position



  3. Australis on 15/11/2010 at 4:33 pm said:

    Scottish Renewables: “we need to focus on … the economic and environmental benefit of renewables”.

    Does anybody know what these are?

    The whole world knows that the “economic benefit” of wind, solar, tides, ethanol, etc is hugely negative. Hydro and geothermal are usually just as unaffordable. Where they are economic due to serendipitous locations, it is not because they use renewable fuel.

    What is the environmental benefit of renewables? They might produce fewer net GHGs, but so does nuclear and ‘clean coal’. They use vast tracts of land, displace food, gobble scarce resources, kill birds, ruin landscapes, have dreadful energy conversion rates and last for only about 15 years.

    Is “renewable” just a nice word that sounds “sustainable”?

    • Andy on 15/11/2010 at 4:57 pm said:

      The economic benefit of renewables is in the form of the subsidy that goes to the operator.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 15/11/2010 at 7:28 pm said:

      “environmental benefit”

      If I had to choose, I would rather live next to a 1000Mw coal fired station (equipped with scrubbers – even better) than within cooee of a 1MW wind turbine.

      And apart from Andy’s economic assessment I like this from Wikipedia:-

      Wind power is non-dispatchable, meaning that for economic operation, all of the available output must be taken when it is available. Other resources, such as hydropower, and load management techniques must be used to match supply with demand. The intermittency of wind seldom creates problems when using wind power to supply a low proportion of total demand, but as the proportion rises, problems are created such as increased costs, the need to upgrade the grid, and a lowered ability to supplant conventional production.

      i.e. better have a hydro, nuke, thermal or fossil fuel handy just in case the wind dont blow.

  4. Andy on 22/11/2010 at 5:58 pm said:

    There’s a video of Soames addressing the Scottish Assembly here


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