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Scottish offshore wind industry in danger of proving unsustainable

Too much haste, poor regulation and a lack of focus on skills could leave Scotland burdened with an unsustainable offshore wind industry, experts told the Scottish Low Carbon Investment Conference yesterday.

Scottish and Southern Energy chief executive officer Ian Marchant said it would be wise to “arrest the pace” of developing offshore wind to allow more time to attract inward investment and drive down the costs of building offshore farms. He warned against doing “too much, too quickly” and said it would be better to look at a 10-15 year programme rather than a 7-8 year programme encouraged by 2020 targets.

Marchant questioned the validity of the European target to have 20% of Europe’s energy coming from renewables by 2020. “I have this nagging doubt that we have latched onto the wrong year just because it made poetry,” Marchant said. Scotland has its own stringent target to have 80% of Scottish electricity consumption supplied by renewables by 2020, which was raised last week from the previous target of 50% by 2020.

Management and IT consulting and technology firm PA Consulting Group managing consultant James Hamilton said 2020 is only a milestone, and long term thinking is more important. “We do not want to create a ‘boom and bust’ where the industry falls off a cliff after 2020,” he said.

Spanish lessons

Turbine manufacturer Gamesa chairman Jorge Calvet warned the conference that the Spanish wind energy industry is proving unsustainable because the regulatory framework is a hindrance.

Some 20GW of wind energy capacity has already been built in the country, but work has now dried up, said Calvet.

“I hope you can take the Spanish example as something that cannot — or should not — be done,” he said. Ofgem managing director Bob Hull told the conference that Ofgem would seek to provide regulatory certainty going forward.

Calvet also advised that focusing on nurturing skills related to offshore wind would increase the new industry’s sustainability. ScottishPower Renewables managing director Keith Anderson said specialised courses should be created to encourage engineering students to specialise in offshore wind. “We have got to get people dedicated and trained for this industry, because it is big enough to do that,” he said.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Scotland should stick to tried and tested reliable and cheaper hydro-electric power. They have the lochs, the hills and the expertise for all their needs and, unlike Wind Turbines either on-shore or off-shore, the overall systems have relatively little visual impact.

    What we have is a classic example of bureaucracy and non-engineers and politicians distorting markets and denying us all the cost, reliability and better service benefits of the most efficient and effective reliable engineering solutions available.

    It has been established that, from available records, China has been increasing its CO2 emissions over the last few years far more than previously anticipated by monitoring bodies, and that by next year will be emitting more CO2 per capita than the UK, and increasingly so because of its massive programme of fossil fuelled new power stations and industrial processes. They have even bought into "dirty" Alberta Tar Sands in a big way!

    The populations of the UK and China are approx. 1% and 20% of the global population. The UK currently emits approx. 1.75% of global CO2. Clearly China, alone, is annually generating far more additional CO2 than the UK actually emits, let alone what it can save!

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  • Why is Scotland spending billions of tax payers' money on combating global warming when the biggest drawback of living there is the cold dreich climate?

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