Renewables path won’t run smoothly

Alf Young is always worth reading on energy policy. In today’s Scotsman he highlights the contradiction between the Scottish Government’s renewable strategy and the extraction of further oil reserves from the North Sea.

He quotes the Guardian’s figures which suggest that, depending on how many barrels of oil and gas can realistically be recovered over the next 40 years, that output would equate to between 5.2 billion and 10.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere. By comparison, the green electricity pledge, if redeemed, would save a tiny fraction of that, just nine million tonnes of CO2.

Kevin Anderson, deputy director of the Manchester-based Tyndall Centre on climate change, says: “Without a shadow of a doubt, this is a significant and serious contradiction. To meet our international obligations [to reduce carbon emissions], we cannot justify the extraction of additional fossil fuels.”

Alf Young highlights other challenges for the policy. The growing skills gap with workers snapped up by the oil industry, means the hope that there will be a skills transfer into renewables looks increasingly like wishful thinking. Then there is the cost of subsidising renewables at at time when bills are rising and UK government ministers are becoming hostile to renewables. Not to mention the small matter of what happens to the UK market if Scotland votes for independence.

Alf Young concludes:
“So the risks to the SNP’s current energy narrative are obvious. What if there’s a public backlash against the cost of subsidising renewables as household bills continue to rise? What happens to the dream of Scotland exporting vast quantities of green electricity to England, if Paterson and Osborne win this battle? And who pays to make that trade viable, if the current UK subsidy system is scrapped?”

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