I saw mention on social media last week that the North of Scotland’s domestic electricity had been supplied some days entirely by renewables. With Scotland having 60% of the UKs onshore wind and 25% of Europe’s offshore wind capacity things are only going to get better or so you’d think. But there’s an absurdity and indeed perversity in our energy system and it’s not being addressed.
The absurdity’s that as Scots struggle to meet their electricity bills, not only are they charged more as prices are linked to European gas, but turbines are switched off. Energy that could be produced cheaply here is instead not even powered up. If you’re out for a walk and see a turbine idling the likelihood is that it’s not that the wind isn’t blowing or the machine not working. In 2019 29 Scottish wind farms were curtailed, as is industry speak for being requested to reduce or just switch off. 80% of curtailment was in Scotland.
Added to that absurdity’s the perversity that it comes at a massive cost. In 2021/22 alone £164 million was paid out to suppliers to not turn. Pretty soon its going to be nearing a billion paid out over 5 years.
Compounding those insanities suppliers are paid more to switch off than they are for the energy they produce. Those costs are also greatest in winter. Logical perhaps as demand is greatest and therefore more needs paid to out to compensate. But cruel for those freezing in their homes and seeing turbines idling in the distance.
The reason is that there’s insufficient grid capacity to send it south. That’s only going to worsen as new wind farms open onshore and the Offshore revolution comes on stream. Of course, cables are being laid to get around that but there’s a solution on our doorstep that offers huge opportunities for Scotland. The energy can be stored in giant batteries and used when the wind isn’t blowing, or demand’s highest. It’s relatively new technology but it exists and should be rolled out. That also provides for the production of hydrogen. After all what you need for that is energy and water and we’ve got it in spades.
Scotland’s blessed with renewable energy switching it off is absurd and failing to capitalise with batteries and hydrogen perverse. It’s time both UK and Scottish Government got moving and ended the absurdity.