East Lothian Courier – 28 March 2024

  

Applications for onshore wind farms and other renewable energy projects have been causing concern in the county. It’s not simply the visual impact but both the construction phase and future operation have implications for traffic and other aspects of community life.

On that basis the establishment of a new organisation to oversee electricity supply should be welcome. In some ways the newly formed Electricity Supply Operator (ESO) is some progress. It’s still a private entity and is operated by the National Grid PLC largely owned by foreign investors. But at least it offers some possibility of getting some coordination.

There are many parts of East Lothian where construction of these sites would be welcome or at least uncontroversial. But they’ve largely been ignored. There’s similarly the fact that we’re allowing more onshore sites when we can’t even use what we’ve currently got. Some 17% of onshore wind turbines are switched off annually as there’s no capacity to get their energy onto the National Grid and we pay operators a premium to switch off. Compounding that the commencement of offshore wind where its capacity will dwarf on shore is beginning, changing the renewable energy dynamics and mitigating against onshore.

However, I’m not sure that ESO is going to address the problem and could raise other matters of concern. That’s because their strategic plan’s basically to move the energy from where it’s produced to where they wish it supplied. That means from Scotland where we’ve huge resources on and offshore to down south. There’s logic to that but where’s the revenue for us from what we provide, let alone the cheap energy that should follow and the jobs and businesses that should be following.

Instead, we’re to see it cabled south akin to what’s already happening at Thorntonloch. But there’s also to be an onshore link from Scotland’s northeast down our coast and then through the borders to Merseyside. That’ll be by huge pylons. We get the visual impact, but neither the revenue nor jobs. It’s perverse to be an Energy Rich Nation and yet have your people facing fuel poverty.