Sunday, 13 April 2014

Making a connection

Energy is extremely important. Every nation needs to have enough power to keep the lights on and drive industrial processes. This can either be created within the country itself, or by purchasing from neighbouring nations. Any government anywhere in the world that can't keep the lights on tends to be out of office pretty quickly.

So how does this connect with the Scottish referendum debate? Quite a bit actually, as we have the potential to have cheap, safe and unexhaustible energy whilst generating fantastic revenues from its export.
Scotland is blessed with plentiful resources. This includes almost 60% of EU oil reserves and around a third of the EU's hydrocarbon production. There are vast amounts of oil left in the North Sea (enough to last 100 years) and potentially even more on Scotland's west coast. But, just like the uranium required for nuclear power stations, these will not last forever, and there are arguments that some of the fossil fuel remaining shouldn't be disturbed at all.

Fortunately we have also been blessed with vast renewable energy potential. This will not run out and can power a nation safely and consistently, just as our friends in Denmark are doing right now. We host 25% of Europe's offshore wind and tidal potential, as well as 10% of wave potential. The Penland Firth on it's own could power half of Scotland, and this is with today's technology. Advancements could push this even further.
The reason why this is important to the independence debate is because this potential is not being realised by Westminster. Indeed they are actively hurting renewable energy whilst chasing after a more expensive alternative.
Scottish generators account for around 12% of the capacity connected to Britain's high-voltage electricity network but pay around 35% of the charges. Orkney and Shetland alone are likely to see an annual connection charge fee of £107 million by 2020, a massive increase from the already excessively high £56 million charged in 2011. By comparison, a connection subsidy of £2 million would be paid if this same project were built in the south west of England. This is because connection charges to the national grid are based on distance to population centres, which covers-up subsides to nuclear energy projects and artificially inflates the cost of renewable energy.

With independence we can get rid of this inherently unfair and unproductive system.
The choice facing Scotland's energy future becomes even clearer when we look at Westminster's proposals for the future. They are already committed to doubling energy prices:
"But the Government has come under fire for guaranteeing to pay £92.50 per megawatt hour of electricity produced - a so-called "strike price" double the current market rate." Sky News, October 2013
This committment to new nuclear power stations comes despite the revelation of a £100 million pound, 120 year clean up cost to existing facilities. It also defies the economic case for renewable energy including the significant number of jobs it offers to local communities. Having a combination of on and off-shore wind farms, hydroelectric plants, solar panels and geothermal energy, will provide reliable, safe, and affordable power not just for ourselves, but for every generation that follows. The potential to end fuel poverty in Scotland forever, as well as contributing to the African Dream, is too much for me to ignore.

A Yes vote puts Scotland's energy future into our hands. It will offer better prices for consumers, more competitiveness for our industries, and irradicate fuel poverty from our nation forever. It offers a reliable, consistent source of export revenue, employment for our island and remote communities and can contribute towards the aspirations of developing nations.
Westminster is guaranteeing higher prices, the continuation of unfair connection charges and even more dependence on the depleting global supply of uranium. The only way to have an energy policy that matches the interests of Scotland is to have the powers of independence.
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