I am fully behind renewable energy. As I have blogged before, I believe we as a country could be doing much more. But one thing renewables need is a market, and a recent opinion poll indicates that Scots are unwilling to pay for them.
At the moment, electricity consumers across the UK(all 29,365,000 of them) pay a small amount extra on their bills for the various green initiatives. The existing Renewable Obligation added £12 a year to the average electricity bill, while the feed-in tariff was originally predicted to cost about anything from £6 to £26 a year before the Government cut back on the scheme.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out, that in the event of an independent Scotland, either Scottish consumers will have to pick up the tab for the subsidy, or the exported electricity will cost more. England will have the benefit of the French interconnector, able to import cheap French nuclear electricity, so expensive Scottish electricity will come second best. The capacity for importing electricity from France will even be increased by a planned new project by the Channel Tunnel.
SNP claims that England will still have to import Scottish electricity to meet its own green targets overlook a couple of major points. Firstly, the UK Government will be able to claim, quite rightly, that independence has meant that a large chunk of its existing renewable capacity has just left. Secondly, the UK Government is not averse to the construction of new nuclear plants – providing zero carbon electricity. Their own renewable strategy is dependent on offshore wind, such as the London Array.
So if there isn’t a market for export then it falls onto Scottish consumers to pay. And since they make up about 10% of the UK total, it’s pretty clear that to support even the existing renewable industry, let alone the massive expansion to 100% renewable by 2020, bills will be going up quite a bit. It’s not about whether anyone will build the wind farms; it’s about whether anyone will buy their electricity.