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The Real Cost Of Scotland’s Obsession With Renewable Energy

November 17, 2016

By Paul Homewood  


Ardrossan Wind Farm


Yesterday I looked at just how little wind power is being produced in England. The other side of the coin, of course, is Scotland, where the situation is reversed. There, wind power accounts for more than a quarter of total generation.

The SNP like to brag about this fact, and are committed to going much further.

But how much does all of this cost in subsidies?


Currently, renewable generators receive Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs). These vary according to technology, with, for instance, offshore wind currently receiving 1.8 ROCs per MWh. The Committee on Climate Change give the value of these ROCs, as per the table below, in their calculations for the Fifth Carbon Budget. Their figures take account of changes in allocations since 2012.

Output data is from DECC. (No split is available for wind, but installed capacity numbers would suggest offshore accounts for about 5%).



  GWh 2015 ROC/MWh
Total Subsidy
£ million
Onshore Wind 13399 44.57 597
Offshore Wind 500 77.23 39
Solar 187 61.40 11
Biomass 1337 53.33 71
Total     718


All of this subsidy is passed onto UK electricity consumers, but what would the effect be if they were solely added to Scottish consumers?             

According to DBEI, (the new Dept of Business, Energy and Innovation), electricity consumption in Scotland was 25510 GWh in 2014, the latest year figures are available for.

The cost of ROCs for Scottish renewables would therefore add £28 per MWh to the cost of electricity, equivalent to about 25% on household bills. 

Put another way, the cost would amount to £135 for every man, woman and child in Scotland. 




Of course, ROCs are not the only extra cost imposed by obsession with renewable energy. Feed in Tariffs are estimated by the CCC to be costing the UK nearly a billion a year, whilst the cost of providing standby capacity will cost at least as much in coming years.

Then there is the huge expense of laying new transmission lines.


The SNP like to proclaim their energy independence, and point to the jobs created and income generated for the country. In reality, these are hollow claims.

Very few permanent jobs result from wind power, and most of the money goes to rich landowners and the banks and (mostly foreign owned) who finance and operate the wind farms.


Perhaps the next time Nicola Sturgeon waffles on about renewable energy, somebody should ask her if she would like her fellow Scots to pay all of the bill themselves.





1) DECC data:

  1. John Peter permalink
    November 17, 2016 8:37 pm

    When Ed Davies was up here in Scotland before the independence referendum Sept. 14 he said that Scotland would have to pay the renewables obligations and quoted a figure of 1.9 billion Sterling p.a. This was based on a ruling by the European Court of Justice. Does not seem to tie in with the above £718 million. Since then a lot more wind turbines have been installed and ED’s figure would probably be nearer £2,5 billion now. What makes up the difference?

  2. November 17, 2016 9:42 pm

    I’ve been reading “2020 Routemap for Renewable Energy in Scotland”. Nowhere is gas or coal-fired backup mentioned. No kind of backup is mentioned. All power ratings are those supplied by the manufacturer, and those figures are used to calculate power generated. There’s no mention of load factors (estimated maximum power output in operation) at all.

    There’s a section on tidal power, with sea-bed turbines figuring prominently. No mention of slack water as the tide turns at high and low water, when power output is precisely zero. Slack water applies to tidal lagoons as well of course, when the level of water on either side of the turbines is the same.

    The document assumes that the two pumped-hydro stations will be 100% available to balance Scottish “renewable” power. The Scottish government didn’t pay for them; they don’t currently have any control over them. Scottish Power and SSE run them. There’s no mention of how long the two can balance the Scottish grid at slack water and low (or too high) wind speeds, when turbines produce low or zero output, possibly for periods of over a day.

    Checking the manufacturers specs for tidal flow turbines, they refer to slack water as “holding periods”. Holding what? Hands in the air to implore the Lord to speed up the Moon for a bit?

    • November 18, 2016 1:41 pm

      I recall from reading about proposals for a Fundy power project ( Minas Basin section of the Bay between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in Canada ) that design parameters included more than one ‘cistern’ so as to have capacity for internal rebalancing of captured waters to take up slack tide. Obviously, that drives project costs much higher.

  3. November 17, 2016 10:54 pm

    Add in the odd £billion here and there for interconnectors.

  4. November 17, 2016 11:03 pm

    Paul your onshore and offshore wind capacity data appear suspect or out of date.

    Renewables UK state that onshore wind operational capacity is 9,087MW and offshore operational capacity is 5,097MW. Total wind capacity is thus 14,185MW. (Note that the data are for projects of 100kW and larger). Production is quoted as 37,774GWhr, nearly 3 times your number! And of course the subsidies will be 3x bigger.

  5. clipe permalink
    November 18, 2016 1:12 am

    Niall Stuart, Chief Executive, Scottish Renewables

    Reader’s comment


    5:49 PM on 17/11/2016


    Over 5,000,000 trees felled to make room,
    Hundreds of miles of bulldozed tracks,
    Our finest landscapes trashed by multinationals,
    Giant pylons scarring our beautiful countryside,
    Drumochter Pass completely vandalised,
    Thousands of tons of concrete dumped on our fragile upland ecosystems,
    Millions of birds and bats needlessly slaughtered,
    Wind farms visible from 60% of Scotland,
    Tourists deterred by industrialised landscapes,
    The highest energy bills in Europe,
    Countless millions extorted from the poorest bill payers,
    Multinationals and landowners trousering millions,

    During our coldest nights so far, in February 2016, when we needed power most, despite all this, wind’s contribution to the National Grid, to the nearest round figure was –

    ZERO!!! (0.15% precisely)

  6. tom0mason permalink
    November 18, 2016 5:33 am

    Scotland is unlikely to have the wind powered system keeping-up with demand by this coming weeks weather — cold, cloudy, and next to no wind.

  7. November 18, 2016 8:05 am

    Most UK jobs in wind power are in offshore maintenance, there are many technicians who daily (weather permitting) take to boats and helicopters to maintain the equipment, who knew that putting electrical/mechanical equipment in the sea would be so expensive to maintain?

    Since deep-water Scotland has mainly onshore wind (though no doubt the zealots are plotting to change that) it has very few wind jobs, though plenty in generating hot air.

  8. AlecM permalink
    November 18, 2016 8:12 am

    We need to tell the SNP that their grid will fail once we put in place phase switches at the border, thus ending grid inertia support for the fascists who own the windmills and pushed the SNP into power so the Scots’ landowners could rape the English poor.

    No grid for 1/3 rd the time would concentrate minds wonderfully north of the border.

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      November 18, 2016 12:22 pm

      Renewables is an easy sell to politicians and the public are not technically savvy and a country appears well endowed with resources, wind and water in this case, and a relatively small population. Ask most of the above groups when they think a windmill is producing power and they’ll tell “when it’s turning” convincing them that unless the wind is about 25mph then output will be well below 100% is virtually impossible. The other answer will be “It’s always windy somewhere”.

      As you say the nation of Watt, Bell, Dewar, MacIntosh Dunlop, Paterson, Hume, Smith, Mackenzie and Livingstone has fallen a long way in a few decades, and needs a good shaking.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        November 18, 2016 2:00 pm

        When I mentioned grid frequency stabilization problems due to windmills and solar panels to a friend with solar panels it was news to her. What made her more concerned was when I explained that if the number of people producing energy off grid increases too much then they can expect to be hit with a grid access charge to cover their share of the costs of maintaining the grid since their low electricity use doesn’t cover it. Guess the sales people don’t mention that one. You could always go completely free of the grid to avoid paying.

      • tom0mason permalink
        November 19, 2016 5:35 am

        And lets no forget that great chemist Doctor Jekyll and his ever faithful fiend Mr. Hyde lived in Edinburgh.


  9. November 18, 2016 8:52 am

    However, when you consider how we squandered their oil, perhaps we owe them one…

    • November 18, 2016 9:40 am

      They could have the benefits of their own fracking if they felt like it.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      November 19, 2016 10:36 am

      A lot of ‘their’ oil is actually ‘our’ oil when the border is projected out to sea under international convention. Another flaw in the SNP plan but, hey, the SNP used the most taxpayers’ money to pay their staff bonuses. Quite what they did to actually warrant a bonus is highly questionable.

    • catweazle666 permalink
      November 19, 2016 10:20 pm

      “when you consider how we squandered their oil”

      It wasn’t “their” oil.

      Do try to keep up.

  10. Harry Passfield permalink
    November 18, 2016 10:54 am

    Looking at the head picture I’m trying to imagine if it showed (fracking) gas rigs instead of wind turbines.
    Well, for a start, they would not be so intrusive – even if visible – and secondly, they would be producing full time – and at lower cost.

    • November 18, 2016 11:16 am

      If you were to replace the one on the left in the picture with a well head it would be invisible in this view. Chances are it would also be invisible from the house in the middle-distance centre. If not a nice little tree would do the job!

      As for how much energy that well head would be responsible for producing over what period of time and at what cost in terms of both cash and “emissions” I couldn’t be sure but I’m prepared to bet next month’s pension that by all measurements the consumer would win hands down!

      Is that not the way things are supposed to be?

  11. mwhite permalink
    November 18, 2016 7:12 pm

    So what are the chances of a South Australia like situation happening up there???

    • November 18, 2016 10:16 pm

      They have plenty of back up capacity from English coal and gas at the moment.

      For how long is another matter

  12. AlecM permalink
    November 18, 2016 7:17 pm

    Meanwhile, the UK is being primed for the inevitable power cuts in this very cold forthcoming winter (present NH snow cover is the 2nd highest ever recorded). Here is the evidence.

    1. Two days ago there was a nationwide warning about cyber-criminals interfering with power supplies – this is really an ar$e covering exercise.

    2. Just today, ‘vulnerable people’ (old and/or ill) were told by letter in my local town that if power cuts occur, they will be given special help.

    3. A month ago, some power companies sent out leaflets telling customers how to cope with power cuts.

    4. A year ago, the Cabinet Office wargamed a black start, which can take 4 days and 10,000 extra deaths a day, about the same as Hitler killed in the London Blitz.

    5. Greg Clarke has started to wear brown trousers. As for Nick Hurd, he is an eejit quite prepared to be seen in public with a paper bag over his head.

  13. Gerry, England permalink
    November 19, 2016 11:11 am

    Is the picture real since that seems to be one hell of a lot of lamp columns along that street!

  14. Paul2 permalink
    November 19, 2016 4:47 pm

    You see, when it’s all said and done, it’s down to climate change. Lice, amoebic gill disease – everything:

  15. nightspore permalink
    November 20, 2016 9:26 pm

    OT, but the lead picture looks like a still from War of the Worlds.

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