The Scottish government published its first comprehensive energy strategy five days before Christmas. Having spent almost all of 2017 consulting on its vision of how we should be powering our lives by 2050, the timing of the publication seems perverse. The minister responsible, Paul Wheelhouse, insists that the choices affecting our energy future “are among the most important we face”. If he really believes that, why release the government’s approach when festive shopping was on most people’s minds? Scotland barely noticed the minister’s plans. The confusion doesn’t end there. At its core, this 90-page vision of how we will power, light and heat our lives by the middle of this century opts for ambivalence. It advances two starkly contrasting scenarios for 2050: an electric future and a hydrogen future. In the first, 80 per cent of residential energy demand a cross Scotland is met from electricity and 100 per cent of the cars and light vans on Scotland’s roads are also electric-powered. In the second, 60 per cent of home energy demand has seen natural gas replaced by hydrogen, while hydrogen also drives all cars and light vans and most buses, too. Surely any strategy worthy of its name needs some targets to aim at. So our Scottish government has opted for two, to be delivered over the next 12 years. By 2030 “the equivalent of 50 per cent of the energy for Scotland’s heat, transport and electricity consumption” will be supplied from renewable sources. By the same date, there will be a 30 per cent increase in “the productivity of energy use” across the whole Scottish economy.There is one other obstacle to Scotland’s energy strategy being realised. Our governing party is much clearer about what it doesn’t want in any decarbonised energy vision. It doesn’t want any new nuclear capacity built north of the Tweed. When Hunterston and Torness close in the 2020s, that’s it for nuclear. Nor will it allow any exploitation of onshore oil and gas reserves by fracking.
Times 3rd Jan 2017 read more »