Myth and reality
Monday’s edition (14 April) brought a wry smile to my face. One of your articles reports on how Alex Salmond is pulling out all the stops to woo voters from the islands. They will be granted all manner of extra powers.
Indeed, if such greater autonomy is not sufficient then they may even be allowed a referendum on independence!
When I turn to the letters column I find a deluge of correspondence about government policy on wind farms.
A somewhat different picture emerges. Local governments which have gone through the proper procedures but have rejected planning applications find themselves overruled by Big Brother in the shape of Mr Salmond’s central government.
Mr Salmond’s latest tactic seems to be to beat the “freedom” drum. I hope voters can tell the difference between the myth and the reality.
Braid Hills Avenue
The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change’s latest report on climate change is translating predictably into a demand for more renewable energy, predominantly wind turbines.
Various justifications for this are provided by government and the renewable energy lobby, foremost among them the argument that “we need them to keep the lights on” and “we must reduce global carbon dioxide emissions”.
Former chairman of Scottish Power, Sir Donald Miller, calculates that we would need an additional, unaffordable, 12,000 turbines to meet the first requirement.
The second requirement, the reduction of global carbon emissions, is even more problematic.
Last year Scottish Renewables claimed that all UK wind farms reduced annual carbon emissions by the equivalent of 7.3 million tonnes. Global emissions were then estimated at 35.6 billion tonnes.
In other words, British wind farms reduced global emissions by one paltry 5,000th. This was far less than 100th of the annual increase in global carbon output and well below that for the UK.
Since then, there have been increases in UK turbine numbers – and in global carbon emissions. So no change.
The response across the European Union is equally feeble. Germany’s retreat from nuclear power and its wholesale commitment to renewable energy has forced it to open new coal-fired power stations to maintain energy supplies and carbon emissions are increasing as a result.
Now the EU as a whole is reduced to impotent fury at Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s encroachments on the Ukraine because we need his gas to keep the lights on. There must be a lesson in all this!
(Dr) Ken Brown
When the UK Government created renewable energy subsidies, Alex Salmond’s eyes must have lit up. His windy country would be first in line for all that “free money”.
The UK was going to bankroll the biggest ever roll-out of energy installation and infrastructure. What untold riches would flow from this Saudi Arabia of Renewables!
The fairy tale, though, is fast dissolving. The First Minister’s win-win situation has turned out to be a lose-lose for Scotland.
First, onshore wind has delivered precious little for the Scottish economy.
We have no indigenous wind industry like Germany or Denmark, and there are next to no jobs for locals beyond a few crumbs – such as making sandwiches and cement during construction or picking up the dead birds on operational wind farms. The huge profits in developing and running wind farms flow out of the country to multinationals and private shareholders, and Scotland sees none of the tax revenue.
Second, Mr Salmond attracted international wind developers by making sure planning permission would be much easier to get in Scotland than anywhere else.
So we have a planning regime which puts the interests of the wind industry before the need to protect local communities, businesses and environments.
Stories of the way turbines desecrate landscapes, kill birds and bats, put off tourists, create ill-health and blight property values are legion.
Every new wind farm application creates more opposition to wind energy and more anger with the Scottish Government. No wonder community councils and local authorities are saying they have had enough.
Third, wind has so unbalanced the mix in Scotland’s energy supply that Scotland is more dependent than ever on the rest of the UK to keep the lights on.
On its own Scotland could not afford the subsidies necessary to keep the turbines turning, and Scotland lacks both the fossil fuel and nuclear capacity to provide baseload and kick in when the wind isn’t blowing.
Connecting thousands of far-flung turbines to the national grid requires upgrading and extending transmission networks on a scale that the UK cannot afford.
Scotland is well on the way to becoming a giant wind farm for the south-east of England.
It is disturbing to note that of the 4,350 onshore wind turbines in the UK, some 2,315 are in Scotland – more than half.
As the subsidies for these machines go either to companies abroad, or to already rich Scottish landowners, SNP policy would seem to be that of making the rich richer at the expense of everyone else, particularly the poor, by means of higher electricity prices, regardless of ability to pay. Something not quite right there.
Based on the strength of feeling displayed in these pages and at local level, one wonders if the SNP’s policy on wind farms would be enough to force Yes voters to reconsider their opinions.