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Expert commission

I'm back at my desk for a couple of days...

The Scottish Government has published the findings of an expert commission into how the energy market north of the border would work post-independence. Unlikely as that result might seem at the present time, the report makes for amusing reading.

The commission itself seems to be one of those bodies like the Russell or Stern reviews that was put together to lend credence to a pre-ordained result. If you take a look at the panel members you can see what I mean:

Chair: Robert Armour OBE (Chairman, Smarter Grid Solutions, Senior Counsel, Gowlings)
  • Simon Bucknall (Retired, Formerly Director of Regulation, Scottish Power).
  • Tom Delay (Chief Executive, The Carbon Trust).
  • Audrey Gallacher (Director of Energy, Consumer Focus).
  • Dr Robert Gross (Head of UKERC Technology and Policy Assessment Function, Imperial College).
  • Gordon MacDougall (COO, UK and Ireland, Renewable Energy Systems).
  • Dr Fiona Riddoch (Managing Director, Cogen Europe).
  • John Scott (Director, Chiltern Power Ltd, Formerly Director of Engineering National Grid and Technical Director, Ofgem).
  • David Sigsworth (Chairman, SEPA, Chairman of the Scottish Fuel Poverty Forum, Former Board Director, SSE).
  • Graeme Sweeney (Special Advisor on CO2 to Royal Dutch Shell, Executive Chair of Chop-cloc Ltd; Chairman of the Advisory Council of the European Technology Platform on Zero Emission Fossil Fuel Power Plants (ETP-ZEP)

There's an excellent demolition of the findings in the Scotsman, where Brian Wilson seems close to breaking down at the sheer inanity of energy policy north of the border:

Let’s look at the Scottish Government’s existing energy policy which can be summarised as follows:

1. They hate nuclear power and there will be no replacement for Hunterston B and Torness until hell freezes over.

2. They neither know nor care what will replace the base-load from Scotland’s four thermal power stations, all due to close within a decade, since that’s tomorrow’s problem.

3. The answer is that it will probably come from England via the inter-connector but with a bit of luck the hated Hunterston B and Torness will keep going long enough to avoid that embarrassment for a few years yet.

4. English consumers will continue to fund Scottish renewables, via open-ended subsidy and infrastructure costs, regardless of whether or not we are living in separate states.

5. Er… that’s it…

Wilson is a former Scottish energy minister so an unenlightened reader might assume that he knows what he is talking about. However, the more worldly-wise BH reader will note that he has been a prominent supporter of renewables so he must bear some of the responsibility for the shambles we are in. Moreover, he is also an admirer of Fidel Castro and it is therefore no surprise that his solution to the impending disaster seems to be little more than a different version of central planning.

So hold on to your seats. This promises to get interesting.


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Reader Comments (33)

'The Scottish Government has published the findings of an expert commission into how the energy market north of the border would work post-independence.'

Or not, as the case is more likely to be.

Jul 12, 2014 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterBloke down the pub

Well if global warming continues to cause so much snow in Scotland and elsewhere, then sooner or later we sinners won't remember what hell feels like anymore.

Jul 12, 2014 at 10:42 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

When WILL the insurrection take place?

When prices rise to the point when over 50% of homes suffer from fuel poverty (>10% of after-tax income is spent on energy)?

When the winter is so severe that tens of thousands of people die?

When the voters discover who is benefiting from the truly gigantic subsidies being paid out.

When power cuts reach the point where we are all working a three day week?

When the last energy-intensive facility closes down (i.e. a zero day week for the employees)?

When raptors are driven to extinction by windmill farms?


Jul 12, 2014 at 11:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohnOfEnfield

Wee Alex Salmond was a banking economist with RBS. He loves carbon trading.

Jul 12, 2014 at 12:24 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

No interest in independence or Scottish, but the SNP still give me the creeps. There is something pompous and vacuous about them that is indeed reflected in the energy policy.

E. Smiff. Commissar, People's Republic of Paisley.

Jul 12, 2014 at 12:28 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

[Wilson] has been a prominent supporter of renewables so he must bear some of the responsibility for the shambles we are in.

Wilson has to bear a great deal more responsibility than just "some". The Renewables Obligations were passed on his watch as Energy Minister. It was his decision to include extant hydro power in the schemes despite its never having needed public funding, let alone subsidy, in any shape or form either to build the plant or run it in the sixty-odd years since it was started. The measure, which costs consumers £100 million a year, was agreed in secret following knocking-at-an-open-door lobbying by SSE after "consultation" on the RO/ROS schemes had closed. Even Ofgem complained about that one. See "Subsidies and Subterfuge" -

His conduct towards his critics at the time was appalling, including as it did his gloating in public at the news that a veteran critic of his obsession with wind power had died. His behaviour in a failed bid to cover Isle of Lewis nature reserves with turbines led to him being derided as the MP for Amec North.

As you know, he ended up as Blair's personal envoy in post-invasion Iraq but succeeded only in securing reconstruction contracts for, yup, Amec. I could go on - Little Brian has a lot to answer for. That he now appears as a voice of reason shows only how mad the rest of them now are.

Jul 12, 2014 at 12:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveB

Sorry - forgot to add that Wilson was Energy Minister at Westminster (2001-03), not at what was then the Scottish Executive.

Jul 12, 2014 at 1:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveB

Meanwhile, south of the border, Mr PotatoEd's Department of Ecoloons Cretins and C…..(please complete according to sensibilities) has commissioned a report from the Basil Fawlty School of the Bleeding Obvious to tell us that bigger fridges use more power than smaller fridges and bigger tellies use more power than smaller tellies. Oh yes you will see it is also all the fault of Nigella Lawson. And yes this all undermines attempts to cut carbon emissions (or return the country to the stone age, as we would say). No mention of the hundreds of coal fired power stations popping up all over the real world which arguably are more responsible for undermining attempts to cut carbon emissions.

Jul 12, 2014 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterH2O: the miracle molecule

Can anybody tell me why English consumers will continue to fund Scottish renewables? As separate countries, with the residual UK in the EU and Scotland not in the EU, it is not obvious what the EU renewables directive would mean anymore to the new UK.

Jul 12, 2014 at 1:21 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

'an admirer of fidel castro.'

Every single pro-renewables person I have ever come across, thinks the bees knees of some of the worst people on the face of the Earth- and yeah, they all pretty much hate both the US and the human race.

Jul 12, 2014 at 1:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterOtter

@Philip Bratby

Scotland would not be part of the UK or the EU so there would be no obligation to buy Scottish renewable energy at anything other than market price..

And I dont think even if they did acquire EU membership that we would be required to buy it either.

Scottish renewable power would nit be an asset, but a millstone around the neck of an Independent Scotland.

Jul 12, 2014 at 1:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterLeo Smith


Rarely can there have been a more obvious hater and wolf in sheep's clothing than George Monbiot.

Jul 12, 2014 at 1:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterGlobal dimming

Phillip Bratby
Salmond is selling the Scots a false bill of goods.
One thing that no-one has yet really pulled him up on is his attempt to hide the reality by promising what I call "Independence-lite".
So far it has not yet fully sunk in (and Salmond would rather it didn't until September 19) that Scotland will become a foreign country and that the ties with the rest of the UK which he claims will persist will most emphatically not!
Only today NS&I have said that once Scotland becomes independent then Scots will no longer be able to hold Premium Bonds.
This is not the English being peevish; it's a fact of life. There is no provision for anyone living outside the UK to hold Bonds. I'm not allowed to since I live in France. One wonders which bit of this fairly simple matter Salmond would rather not understand!
The argument about power supplies — like the question of continuing to build UK warships or share UK embassies or the UK currency — is similar. If it happens to be in the UK's interests it might allow Scotland to buy some electricity but that assumes that, with Ed Davey in charge, there'll be any to spare!

Jul 12, 2014 at 1:54 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

I've always found it strange that the English population seems to go with whatever UK PM says, with little argument. Surely the correct thing to have done would be to offer the whole of the UK a referendum on whether Scotland should go for separation or not. It does after all affect all of Britain.
That way Scotland would know for sure how the rest of Britain feels about them. Maybe England wants Scotland to leave but nobody knows.

Jul 12, 2014 at 2:13 PM | Unregistered Commentertom0mason

This was the subject of the 27 June Private Eye article by 'Old McSparky' that I mentioned recently:

England already gets more of its electricity via cross-Channel "interconnectors" from continental Europe than it does from Scotland, and a panicky SNP has just noticed that more interconnectors are planned. This would leave an independent Scotland as just one among several electricity exporters competing for English business.


The same fate [as Germany] is in store for an independent Scotland if it sticks with its all-wind-and-no-nukes policy. Not only would it lose UK wind subsidies (running at about £4bn a year) and have to pay full grid charges for exporting to England (also currently subsidised), but its exports of surplus windpower would frequently be at next-to-nothing prices, while the imports it needed to keep Scotland's lights on when the wind wasn't blowing would be priced at a premium.

Politicially I'm not sure it's such a big challenge for the SNP though. In the aftermath of a Yes vote, with the Green pro-independence vote safely in the bag, I assume Salmond can probably pull off a sharp U-turn on Scottish nuclear power.

Jul 12, 2014 at 2:17 PM | Unregistered Commenteranonym

"'The Scottish Government has published the findings of an expert commission into how the energy market north of the border would work post-independence.'"

I do hope no English pounds funded that beano.

Jul 12, 2014 at 2:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

The Money Box programme on Radio 4 today featured politicians from both sides of the border (and both sides of the argument) discussing the finacial implications of an independent Scotland. I got the impression that neither side had a clue as to what would happen.

Jul 12, 2014 at 2:46 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Phillip, they haven't a clue, and independence will not happen. I think the writing's on the wall on that one.

Jul 12, 2014 at 5:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterOld Goat

Old Goat
1. Never ever underestimate Eck the Fish.
2. Never ever underestimate the size of the grudge that certain parts of Scotland (the parts that Eck is banking on) have towards Maggie. Yes, I know she's been out of office for the best part of 25 years but she's still the perfect excuse for a lot of Scotland's (perceived) failings which they believe breaking away from "the English" can be sorted by a wave of Eck's magic wand.

Jul 12, 2014 at 5:18 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

When it comes to energy policy, the Westminster & Holyrood parliaments are as incompetent as each other. This report in the Herald is on topic and also worth a read.

SCOTLAND is on the brink of an energy crisis, a leading expert has warned, after it emerged the country has begun to rely on electricity produced in England to keep the lights on

In a departure from historical trends, Scotland imported power from down south on 162 days over the past three years.

On 10 occasions, Scotland imported English power constantly throughout the day to meet its needs.

The previously unreported National Grid figures show Scotland continues to export far more power to England than it imports from south of the Border.

Overall, Scotland needed English-produced electricity for seven per cent of the time between April 2011 and January this year.

However experts warned Scotland's historic self-sufficiency in energy faced further erosion as nuclear and coal-fired power stations are due to close or cut capacity in the coming years.

Professor Paul Younger, Scotland's leading expert on energy engineering, said the growing need for English electricity revealed "increasingly tight margins" in Scotland's baseload (constantly available) and dispatchable (available on demand) electricity sources.

He said: "It's the thin end of the wedge. We really are facing a crisis in baseload and dispatchable generation.

"I'm proud Scotland is going forward with renewables. I'm all for renewables but the drawback is that most are unpredictable."

The Glasgow University academic added: "It's all right having your heart in the right place but if your head is not there you are going to come unstuck."

Scotland's two nuclear power stations, Hunterston B and Torness, which produce more than a third of Scotland's power, are due to close in 2023...

Full text: - Energy crisis warning after power imported from England.
[Magnus Gardham, Political Editor, Herald, Saturday 12 July 2014]

Jul 12, 2014 at 8:06 PM | Registered Commenterlapogus

"I'm proud Scotland is going forward with renewables. I'm all for renewables but the drawback is that most are unpredictable."

I'm all for them even though they don't work. Renewables doubleplusgood.

Jul 12, 2014 at 8:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterBloke in Central Illinois

I am alarmed by the complacency about the secession of Scotland from the UK. I believe it will happen, but there appears to be no sensible (ie not political waffle) plans to cope with the consequences, either in Scotland or in the UK. Energy is one area, but banking and the general economy are critical too.

The Scots nationalists appear to think everything will go on as before but it won't. Watch the English pull their bank accounts from foreign domiciled (ie Scottish) banks. And an independent Scotland will ironically become far more dependent on the goodwill of the English than is the case now.

Jul 12, 2014 at 8:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterBudgie

On energy, it is worth noting what few if any 'experts' and journalists have picked up - Hunterston B and Torness have already had their life extended by 5 or 10 years, so that card has already been played.

Jul 12, 2014 at 8:57 PM | Registered Commenterlapogus


There will never be an independent England.

Jul 12, 2014 at 8:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterGlobal dimming

Surely, should Scotland elect to go it alone they would need to apply for membership of the EU. As the United Kingdom of England and Scotland would no longer exist, England would also be required to apply for membership, should we wish. Story over, no more squadrons of Junkers to plague us, no more van Rumpoys to pour scorn upon this Great England.

Jul 12, 2014 at 10:51 PM | Unregistered Commenterandy5759

The SNP first got serious support in parliament in 1974. The Heath Conservative collapse coincided with the discovery of a string of giant oilfields off Scottish shores, and the SNP capitalised by screaming 'its Scotlands oil'. Whatever ills the Wilson Labour administration inflicted on us, and there were many, Tony Benn's BNOC for one, the strong Scottish Labour core vote achieved one important benefit- it neutralised SNP designs on North Sea oil revenue, so by the time these fields were developed and yielding peak output we were into the boom time of the Thatcher/Lawson era and able to eliminate our national deficit. So its a bit ironic that the SNP has missed the main revenue stream that launched it, and now irony of ironies seems wedded to an ideological renewable economic millstone of it own making.

Jul 13, 2014 at 12:03 AM | Registered CommenterPharos

I couldn't find anything in the report to support Brian Wilsons 4 assertions:

1. As far as I can see they didn't mention nuclear at all but I presume (like everyone else) the nukes will be extended as long as possible - even if just to delay the massive decommissioning costs that Labour never bothered costing for. Alas Wilson's Labour party sold off our last remaining capability to build them as a government entity anyway. However if Labour wins power in a new independent Scotland, presumably nuclear is back on the table so is he really saying Labour - traditionally the strongest Scottish party - are going to play second fiddle in an independent Scotland, bearing in mind that the need for, and presumably therefore also the support for, the SNP has all but disappeared if independence is achieved. Of course certainly anyone would be a fool to follow rUK and submit to EDF's strike-price blackmail which is likley illegal under EU rules anyway. Better buying the Westinghouse AP1000: China is buying 8 for $24 billion; a third of the cost of H2E. Clearly China negotiates better than rUK!

2. The committee specifically wrote that new thermal was necessary even though that was outside their remit. They also mentioned a bigger role for CHP. So this is a serious error (I'll be charitable) by Wilson.

3. Nobody sensible would expect net electricity to come from England since they are hitting the energy buffers a good 15 years earlier than Scotland and seem to care far less than the Scottish government since they don't have any coherent plan at all beyond rationing, negawatts and diesel generators. So I don't see how Wilson can conclude such arrant nonsense. The talk about getting energy from rUK is in the context that they already do import from rUK - albeit far less than they export. Brian, this is called load-balancing! rUKs need to invest in new plant was in any event undermined by Wilsons leaders price freeze promise.

4. They didn't say they expect renewables subsidies from England after independence. How could they? They said only that it would be sensible to assume continued cooperation across borders since nobody they spoke to wanted any kind of split.

So regardless of the nebulous nature of the report itself and it's non-treatment of the tri-lemma, this is shoddy smearing from Wilson, whose own 'expertise' in this area we already know is pitiful. His party is responsible for the ruinous climate change act that is like Alice through the looking glass in its pseudo-reality.

Jul 13, 2014 at 1:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Just watching the Scottish Open at Aberdeen ... quite windy ... a lone 'parked' windmill adding an ugly stain on the natural aspects of the links golf experience.

Jul 13, 2014 at 2:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterStreetcred

Streetcred, travelling to a relative's funeral last week with parents when we passed a grind of windmills on the M1. Everybody had seen these particualr ones before. "Look" exclaimed my mother, "Some of them are turning round!".

Jul 13, 2014 at 5:55 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

If the Scots 'choose' independence the rest of us will lose, as of today, 40 Labour MPs (probably considerably more due to the current disaffection with the Lib-Dems). I don't relish another coalition, whatever its makeup. Millipede and PotatoEd 'working together' .. my skin crawls just contemplating a dark, cold future presided over by compromise as at present.

Jul 13, 2014 at 8:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterHenry Galt

More taxpayer support for offshore renewable scammers. But as usual the BBC report lacks any criticism or balance, and gives WWF and the Carbon Trust a platform for their pro wind delusions. How can off-shore windfarms which are going to take £7 billion investment subsidy, and apparently entail the creation of 28,000 jobs (and salaries) going to make energy 'cheaper'? (the salaries alone will be an annual cost of nearly £1 billion).

Then there are the maintenance costs for these 200m high windmills which are to be bolted to the sea floor in stormy salt-laden waters. Fantasy economics and engineering madness.

Government funding to reduce cost of wind energy

Jul 13, 2014 at 10:25 AM | Registered Commenterlapogus

lapogus quotes Professor Paul Younger:
'I'm proud Scotland is going forward with renewables. I'm all for renewables but the drwaback is that most are unpredictable..'
So - this is 'Scotland's leading expert on energy engineering'..?
Good luck with that, then, Scotland...!

Jul 14, 2014 at 12:05 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

One thing that ought to be very telling with regards Wee Eck and his Scottish Independance campaign is where the money to fund the whole thing is coming from. The answer is truly peculiar: two feckless scots who won the biggest ever payout from the National Lottery have contributed about 80% of the Independance Campaign's funding.

Of the remaining 20%, no more than a handful of rich backers are responsible.

Scottish independance is not, repeat NOT a mass movement. It isn't being funded by thousands of small, politically-motivated scots aiming for political independance. Most of the funding is from two randomly enriched mouth-breathers randomly choosing to fund something.

Aug 4, 2014 at 4:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterDan H.

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