Unconventional generation

A Glasgow Caledonian University team  are launching a project which aims to use water from abandoned coal mines to provide up to 40% of Glasgow’s heat using geothermal energy. The process uses pumps to extract heat from the stored water, which can provide a cheap way to heat homes. The researchers expect to create a blueprint of the whole city within three years. Dr Nicholas Hytiris said Glasgow could become the latest city to have under-street heating, after Hamburg and Stockholm. He said:

“We believe this technology will, in the long term, be able to provide cheaper and more sustainable heating, which could be an answer to fuel poverty issues prevalent in many areas of Glasgow, particularly those with a mining past and a legacy of poor-quality housing and high unemployment. In three years’ time we will have a full and accurate record of what is going on beneath our feet and then we can go on from there”

Somewhat more controversially a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) said Scotland is in a prime position to “capitalise” on shale gas, which is produced by fracking, due to the expertise that already exists in the oil and gas sector. They claim up to £5bn worth of gas reserves in Scotland. Dart energy has been given permission to search for gas at Canonbie in Dumfries and Galloway and wants to drill at Letham Moss, near Airth, Stirlingshire. The Scottish Conservatives back fracking while the Scottish Greens are strongly opposed. The Scottish Government are certainly not ruling it out,  but are not encouraging large scale investment. A Scottish Government spokesman said:

“In Scotland we need a diverse and balanced energy portfolio to provide us with secure and affordable heat and electricity for decades to come and alternative energy reserves such as shale gas and coal-bed methane if sourced and produced with due regard to the environment can fit within Scotland’s energy mix.”

If PwC are correct, and all estimates have to be treated with a great deal of caution, then it could drive down the price of oil by between 25 to 40%. Good news for consumers, but a big reduction in oil revenue and a major discouragement to invest in marginal fields. This has implications for the constitutional debate as the Scottish Government’s post-independence financial plans are heavily predicated on oil revenues.

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