Power With Responsibility: New energy policies for Scotland

28 Jan 2013

Ruth Davidson MSP

The number of planned onshore wind farms should be substantially reduced in Scotland and their subsidy cut by fifty per cent to limit household bills, according to a wide-ranging review of energy policies by the Scottish Conservatives.

The party is supportive of a range of measures, such as the exploration of shale gas, to help tackle spiralling energy prices for householders.

Scotland has some of the worst fuel poverty levels in Europe and it is clear robust solutions are needed to tackle the problem.

Another key recommendation in the party’s energy policy paper – “Power With Responsibility” – is for councils to be given the power to impose a one year moratorium on new wind turbine developments in Scotland.

The paper, commissioned by Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson MSP, was launched at the Falkirk Wheel attraction this morning.

Homeowners in Scotland should also be allowed to claim compensation if the value of their property has dropped because of wind turbine developments.

The Scottish Conservatives believe in a balanced energy mix, with less emphasis on the further development of onshore wind turbines and instead better support for alternative renewables, increasing unconventional gas exploration and new nuclear power stations to replace Hunterston B and Torness.

The Scottish Conservatives are also calling for:

  • Evidence-led development and a clearer legislative and taxation regime to encourage the exploration of shale gas and coal bed methane.
  • Efficiency measures to help lower domestic and commercial demand for energy, such as changes to planning laws to improve the energy efficiency of many older buildings.
  • More support for wave, tidal, hydro and Carbon Capture Storage schemes.
  • A system similar to that of Denmark where a valuation authority has been set up to rule in cases where someone believes the price of their home has been affected by the building of turbines.
  • The Scottish Government to commission an independent study into the health impacts of wind turbines.
  • Councils to enforce planning guidance that wind farm developments should be a distance of 2km from residential areas.
  • A “zoning exercise” to produce new guidance for the Scottish Government and councils on what areas onshore and offshore renewable projects should be sited.

The thousands of wind turbines being erected is a major concern for many communities.

The number in operation, in construction or which have planning consent means that Scotland is already two thirds of the way towards meeting its electricity needs from renewable sources.

However, if all those in the planning stages yet to be given consent are approved, the total output could reach a staggering 134 per cent – which is 34 per cent more than the Scottish Government’s stated target.

The Energy Policy Review was conducted by MEP Struan Stevenson and MSPs Murdo Fraser and Mary Scanlon.

This involved a range of discussions with a large number of individuals and organisations in the energy industry.

It was based on three key principles: to provide a more secure supply of energy by lowering our dependency on imports; to have a more affordable energy policy to limit the cost to consumers and to decrease use of fossil fuels.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson MSP said:

“This is a comprehensive review of Scotland’s energy needs, which does not focus narrowly on one particular part of the industry to meet demand.

“Crucial to keeping the lights on in years to come is an energy mix made up of renewables, nuclear and oil and gas.

“If we get this balance right then we can minimise the cost for consumers and the impact on our communities up and down the country.”

Struan Stevenson MEP said:

“The march of the wind farms under Alex Salmond and the SNP has to be brought to a halt.

“The figures are quite stark – the thousands of turbines in operation, being built or in the planning stage, mean that Scotland will easily overshoot its electricity target.

“This exposes the folly of covering large swathes of our cherished countryside with turbines, in many cases against the will of local communities and councils.

“We have always said appropriately sited wind turbines can play a role in a mixed energy source environment.

“Instead, the Scottish Government is ignoring other sources such as nuclear and pinning all its hopes on a form of energy that has been found to be unreliable intermittent, not to mention hugely unpopular with the general public.

“That is why we need to give power back to communities by having a one year moratorium on onshore wind developments while substantially cutting the level of subsidy to the industry.”

MSP Murdo Fraser, convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Energy, Economy and Tourism Committee, said:

“A taxation and regulatory regime that is favourable to Scotland’s North Sea oil and gas industry is crucial to the country’s future energy needs.

“But, such reserves will eventually run out and that is we must look at other sources.

“As we can see from the experience in the US, the exploration of shale gas and coal bed methane has the potential to raise billions of pounds, resulting in reduced energy bills.

“But as with all new technologies we must be evidence-led in exploring the best and safest routes of development in this field.

“And clearer legislation for firms wishing to become involved in this industry is essential if we are to realise its true potential.”

Scottish Conservative energy spokeswoman Mary Scanlon MSP said:

“Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels is only part of the solution in coming up with a mixed energy strategy.

“Consumers, the public sector and business all have to play their part in reducing our demand for energy.

“The public have to be given the right information on how to save energy.

“We have a one-stop hotline and Energy Saving Scotland Advice Centres, which are largely unknown to many people and we have to raise awareness about them.

“There should also be a sharper focus on making older buildings more energy efficient rather than concentrating on burdening new builds with increasing amounts of red tape.”