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Are Renewables Making Scotland Energy Independent?

May 6, 2018

By Paul Homewood


The SNP often claim that renewable energy is helping to make Scotland energy independent, presumably to bolster the case for independence.

And it is certainly true that in 2016 Scotland supplied 9.6 TWh to England (net of receipts), 21% of total generation.

However, it has been running at this sort of level and higher since 2006, so wind power has little to do with the matter. Indeed, transfers have actually been dropping in recent years.



If we look at total generation, we see that it too has been dropping recently.



The closure of Longannet coal plant during 2016 is mainly responsible for this, and Scotland will lose another 1.8 TWh in 2017 as the full effect of closure takes effect.

This will be offset by an extra 5.2 TWh of wind power, which came on stream last year. But, with subsidies for onshore wind now being phased out, growth in renewables will slow down in the next five years.

More importantly though is what is happening to nuclear power in Scotland, which still accounted for 42.8% in 2016:



Hunterston B produces about half of this power, but, built in 1976, is due to close in 2025.

Whether it makes it that far is highly debatable. Currently one of its reactors is offline, after cracks in the core were found earlier in the year. Its owner, EDF, expects output to fall by 3 TWh this year as a result.

What this tells us about the longer term prospects is anybody’s guess. But Scotland won’t be able to make up this loss of output readily, as both of the nuclear plants, Hunterston B and Torness, were already running at close to capacity prior to this, as was the only major CCGT plant at Peterhead.


Although Scotland will remain a net supplier to the rest of the UK for years to come, the gradual erosion of reliable baseload will actually mean that Scotland itself will be ever more reliant on imported power from England.




Interestingly, Wales is actually a much bigger exporter of electricity to England than Scotland is, which may come as a shock.

Wales exported 18.4 TWh to England in 2016, nearly double the Scottish figure of 9.6 TWh.

  1. swan101 permalink
    May 6, 2018 5:07 pm

    Reblogged this on UPPER SONACHAN WIND FARM and commented:
    Interesting stats. Might be as well to stock up on candles and back-up heating methods before next winter hits…..

  2. 1saveenergy permalink
    May 6, 2018 5:50 pm

    Electricity output from the Hunterston B nuclear power station could fall by 40% this year after dozens of cracks were discovered in one of the reactors.

    So Scotland could soon become a net importer.

  3. Up2snuff permalink
    May 6, 2018 6:08 pm

    Paul, you do not mention hydro-power which would have accounted for a significant proportion of Scotland’s ‘renewables’ electricity generation in the past. Just posting from memory, IIRC, there are no further cheap sources of inland hydro. Tidal generation, at the coast, would be as expensive as Wales – possibly more so – so Scotland, together with the rest of the UK, could be in trouble from the Hunterston B problems for some time to come.

    • May 6, 2018 9:33 pm

      That’s right. Hydro accounts for about 12% of Scotland’s generation, or about a fifth of renewable output

  4. May 6, 2018 7:33 pm

    I have never heard anyone in the SNP claiming that renewables will make Scotland ‘ energy independent’ . What they have said is that they support the ‘target’ that by 2020 Scotland will produce 100% of its own electricity demand from renewables. Now I think that this is a daft, and meaningless, target to aim for. Particularly as energy policy is reserved to Westminster. That is Scotland’s real problem.

    With the closure of Cockenzie what was needed was another gas station but there is nothing that a Scottish Government can do to get it built. So you are right, under an energy policy controlled by Westminster, Scotland is heading for a scenario where it lacks dispatchable capacity and when the wind does not blow in winter, electricity will have to be imported from South of the border. That is what the GB Grid is set up to do.

    Every so often the National Grid company have to confirm to the UK Government that they can keep the lights on in GB, and that includes Scotland. If that means that Scotland is heading for a minimal dispatchable capacity so be it. All N.G. have to do is to confirm that the lights will not go out in Scotland.
    That scenario would actually suit Westminster. ”You need us to take your excess wind electricity and you also need us to bail you out when that capacity is not there ”. A win-win for Westminster.
    The real dummies are the Scottish Government for not complaining about their lack of power over electricity generation policy . They cannot ‘ arrange ‘ a Cockenzie gas replacement in the manner that Westminster can try to make sure that some new nuclear is built to replace closing nuclear stations. Yet 12,000 MWs of new gas capacity have been built in England since 2000.

    I am surprised that one thing you have not even noticed is that since privatisation in 1990, ie. almost 30 years ago – not a single major dispatchable electricity generating station has been built in Scotland. Longannet, Kincardine, Cockenzie, Hunterstons A & B, Torness, Peterhead and even Inverkip were all built by the two Statutory Companies, SSEB and NSHEB. Soon every one of these stations will all be gone with not a single replacement.

    Is there another country in the world with such a record – all under the watchful eye of Westminster. Yet all we hear are criticisms of the Scottish Government.

    • May 6, 2018 9:56 pm

      That obviously explains why Nicola Sturgeon demanded that the UK Government should not cut taxpayer funding for onshore wind without her permission in 2015:

      According to the Telegraph:

      Nicola Sturgeon has demanded that David Cameron give her a veto over cutting taxpayer subsidies for wind farms as experts warned MSPs that “over-egging” renewable energy will lead to increased consumer bills and intermittent supply.

      She said the new UK Government should not change the public funding for onshore wind schemes “without agreement from Scottish ministers” after the Tory election manifesto promised to curb the spread of turbines by stopping any new subsidy.

      Or that as the Guardian reported last year:

      The Scottish government has taken the first steps to heavily cutting the country’s reliance on North Sea oil and gas after calling for 50% of Scotland’s entire energy needs to come from renewables.

      And the SNP’s current policy states:

      What is the SNP policy on onshore wind?
      The SNP condemn the heavy handed approach of the UK Government in the premature scrappage of onshore wind subsidies. Industry experts warn this move is likely to threaten billions of pounds of investment and hundreds of jobs in the renewables sector which is flourishing in Scotland.

      Scotland can continue to be a world leader when it comes to renewable energy – which can boost the economy, create jobs and protect our environment – but this success must not be put at risk by the Tories reckless decisions to cut support for renewables.

      At Westminster, SNP MPs will work to ensure low cost green energy schemes get the long term certainty needed to support further development and reductions in cost. SNP MPs will also press the Westminster government to include onshore wind, the lowest cost renewable energy technology, in its industrial strategy.


      How will the UK Government’s cuts to support for renewables affect Scotland’s energy industry?

      The UK Government have announced cuts to the subsidies for renewable energy generation that could see a loss of investment of up to £3 billion and put more than 5,000 jobs at risk. The Tory government at Westminster has also scrapped a £1 billion grant for the long-planned Carbon Capture and Storage scheme in Peterhead, which will cost 600 jobs in the North East of Scotland.

      In spite of UK Government cuts, Scotland has made outstanding progress in producing clean energy in recent years and has a real opportunity to be a world leader on renewables – with the potential to boost our economy, create jobs and protect our environment.

      In this parliament an SNP government will continue to invest in and support the growth of renewables in Scotland. We will continue to support new wave energy technology through Wave Energy Scotland and the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney, and work closely with the Solar Trade Association to advance proposals for expanding solar energy in Scotland. To allow savers to invest in and support Scotland’s renewable energy sector we will explore the creation of a Scottish Renewable Energy Bond.

      To help the growth of local and community energy projects we will also explore the potential to create a government owned energy company. This will include empowering communities to use the income from energy developments to support other communities develop their energy potential.

      To try and blame Scotland’s obsession with renewables on the UK Govt is frankly pathetic.

  5. May 6, 2018 8:45 pm

    As usaul the focus is on electricity generation. What about transport and heating?

  6. May 7, 2018 12:13 am

    “The real dummies are the Scottish Government for not complaining about their lack of power over electricity generation policy”

    Surely a case of who pays the piper calls the tune. Wind energy subsidy comes from UK bill payers. With 10% of the population how much would bills go up in Scotland if we subsidised all the windfarms here rather than it being UK based.

    Maybe Paul has an idea?

  7. May 7, 2018 8:05 am

    I’ve always perceived that the SNP is filled with the sort of people who have a 3kW fan heater going under their desk in winter and berate their colleagues for leaving their phone chargers plugged in.

    I’m thinking of working up a script for a Caledonian Energy Special episode of Rab C. Nesbitt – there is more than enough material to work with – but – reality presently exceeds anything daft that I can come up with.

  8. Bill permalink
    May 7, 2018 10:11 am

    Dr Simon Evans of deluding himself

  9. May 8, 2018 7:39 am

    Will this get off the ground?

    NorthConnect is a project set up to develop, build, own and operate an electrical ‘Interconnector’ between Scotland and Norway. The 655km long, 1400 megawatt (MW) interconnector will provide an electricity transmission link allowing the two nations to exchange power and increase use of renewable energy.

  10. May 8, 2018 8:42 am

    This GWPF story suggests the constraint payments are attracting wind farm developers to Scotland.

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