Scottish Conservatives Energy Policy

The Scottish Conservatives have published their new energy policy review.

The focus of the policy is to cut the number of planned onshore wind farms in Scotland and cut their subsidy by fifty per cent to limit household bills. The Scottish Conservatives also believe in a balanced energy mix, with less emphasis on the further development of onshore wind turbines and instead better support for alternative renewables, increasing unconventional gas exploration and new nuclear power stations to replace Hunterston B and Torness.

The Scottish Conservatives are also calling for:

  • Evidence-led development and a clearer legislative and taxation regime to encourage the exploration of shale gas and coal bed methane.
  • Efficiency measures to help lower domestic and commercial demand for energy, such as changes to planning laws to improve the energy efficiency of many older buildings.
  • More support for wave, tidal, hydro and Carbon Capture Storage schemes.
  • A system similar to that of Denmark where a valuation authority has been set up to rule in cases where someone believes the price of their home has been affected by the building of turbines.
  • The Scottish Government to commission an independent study into the health impacts of wind turbines.
  • Councils to enforce planning guidance that wind farm developments should be a distance of 2km from residential areas.
  • A “zoning exercise” to produce new guidance for the Scottish Government and councils on what areas onshore and offshore renewable projects should be sited.

There are a number of positive aspects of this energy review. In particular support for a balanced energy policy is welcome. In other areas it is a bit of the proverbial curates egg.

  • While the focus on wind farms was presumably aimed at the media headline, it does make the Tories look a bit nimbyish. Despite that they make valid points about the over reliance on onshore wind in the current Scottish Government energy strategy.
  • The subsidy argument is less strong given that applies to other forms of generation, most notably nuclear. Messing around with the subsidy won’t give any confidence to the start up companies they want to support.
  • Support for local authorities in the planning process is welcome, although the two kilometre rule is a bit arbitrary. Support for the Danish approach of grid management is interesting as unlike the UK this is a nationalised service. Tory support for public ownership is very welcome!
  • At least the recognition that fuel poverty is a huge problem in Scotland. Although a bit light on solutions. Price is an important factor and, as they recognise, so is energy efficiency. The third element in fuel poverty is income and welfare cuts will be very damaging to this element and not surprisingly is absent from the paper.
  • Support for CCS is welcome, but their colleagues at Westminster have cut the budget and, as we have reported, there is strong evidence that they are not serious about supporting a demonstration project in Scotland or elsewhere in the UK.
  • The paper is probably over optimistic on unconventional gas reserves, but then most of the estimates are guesswork. They are right that progress should be evidence led and the paper is not quite as ‘dash for gas’ as the Chancellor’s line.
  • There is a welcome recognition of the important role nuclear power has played in baseload generation in Scotland. However, replacing both of Scotland’s nuclear plants would retain our current imbalance compared with England.

In summary, this paper is a mixed bag but certainly worth a read. A useful contribution to the energy debate in Scotland.

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