Our Energy Future

Last week the Scottish Green Party stated that Scotland should move away from an “over-reliance on fossil fuels” and fully commit to develop and future energy plan based on renewables.

Debating at Holyrood as global oil prices continue to fall, Patrick Harvie and Alison Johnstone, the party’s two MSPs believe that a “managed decline” in North Sea Oil and Gas production could be taken as opportunity to create jobs in other areas of the energy industry.

The Scottish Government has already committed on record support to move to a low carbon economy however a number of MSPs are continuing to support the oil and gas industry with energy minister Fergus Ewing stating the government would do everything possible to support jobs.

Mr. Harvie has been accused of trivialising job losses in the industry but has claimed they are “absurd misquotes.”

“Even those of us who have long argued that we are over-reliant on the fossil fuel industries would never argue that the impact of job losses on this scale is something trivial” he said

Researched commissioned by the Scottish Greens concluded that a move from fossil fuels to renewables and other cleaner alternatives could create 200,000 new jobs in Scotland.

Speaking at the Holyrood debate Mr. Harvie said “Even those of us who have long argued that we are over-reliant on the fossil fuel industries would never argue that the impact of job losses on this scale is something trivial.”

North East MSP Lewis MacDonald urged the Scottish government to undertake an “urgent and detailed” review of the impact of the current low oil price on the strength and stability of the economy stating “whatever the future prospects for North Sea oil, it is not a bonus and it is not an optional extra. It is of critical importance to us all and today it is under threat.”

Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser said the Greens had put forward a “remarkably downbeat and depressing view of a sector that is still important”, to which Mr Harvie replied that “burning all the oil and gas is not compatible with our survival”.

Energy minister Fergus Ewing said companies would go into administration if “the Green recipe is adopted”, arguing that there were many fields where “oil and gas and renewables go hand in hand”.

He said: “Without all of us supporting the work that companies in Scotland do right now, for 2016 and for the foreseeable future, then we won’t see companies go into transition, we’ll see companies go into administration.”

A Scottish government spokeswoman said renewable sources supplied about half of Scotland’s total electricity needs stating “We have a clear policy for a balanced energy mix to provide energy security for the future that balances fossil fuels alongside the growing importance of renewables.”

A new report commissioned by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME) ‘Engineering the UK Electricity Gap’ has claimed that the UK could be set for an energy crisis if the government continues with plans to close all remaining coal plant by 2025.

According to the reports closing the plants, as promised by UK energy secretary Amber Rudd, along with the shuttering of retired nuclear generators will create an energy shortfall of 55% by 2025.

However rather than postponing the coal plant closures the IME report suggest that shortfall could be resolved by incentivising demand reduction and invest in renewables and storage.

The report also stated that the UK would require thirty new gas turbine plans if it was to go down that route to make up the shortfall however the report’s lead author Jennifer Baxter said, the UK has “neither the time, resources nor enough people with the right skills” to achieve.

Another alternative would be to import energy via one of the country’s interconnectors with mainland Europe would leave the UK “at the mercy of the markets, weather and politics of other countries”, Baxter has urged the government to create a “clear pathway” for companies to invest in energy infrastructure and put forward renewables as a solution for the shortfall.

“We need to ensure we have the right skills and knowledge in place to enable this key infrastructure to be built. The UK Infrastructure Commission must also take urgent action to prioritise greater energy efficiency by industry and clarify financial incentives for research and development of renewables, energy storage and combined heat and power,” she added.

Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Simon Bullock agreed with the report’s findings, stating that the government must protect the country’s energy security with a low-carbon electricity system stating “the quickest and safest way to deal with any concerns about power capacity is to prioritise investment in energy efficiency and storage, as the report says, and develop the UK’s massive wind and solar potential.”

Coinciding with the IME report new research from University of Oxford’s Oxford Martin School into the estimated future costs of solar PV technologies has shown potential reductions of 10% per year for the next decade. Professors Doyne Farmer and Francois Lafond used historical data and applied Moore’s Law to develop a forecasting model which estimates the unit cost over time of any given technology.

Researchers have therefore suggested that using these projections energy from solar PV could supply 20% of the world’s energy demands by 2027.

Professor Farmer added “Sceptics have claimed that solar PV cannot be ramped up quickly enough to play a significant role in combating global warming. In a context where limited resources for technology investment constrain policy makers to focus on a few technologies that have a real chance to eventually achieve and even exceed grid parity, the ability to have improved forecasts and know how accurate they are should prove particularly useful.”

At ILI Energy we have always promoted a varied energy mix, not only to preserve our energy security but also with the greater economic picture in mind. That said there are some technologies that are so outdated and the energy they produce just not clean enough that they are rightly being phased out.

Replacing these however will not be easy, as shown in the IME’s report. We have continually stressed that continued use of renewable energy technologies will bring their cost down and now the evidence is there to confirm this.

A strong commitment from the government regarding renewable technologies would help to make up the energy shortfall whilst also promoting jobs and as the cost of the technologies reduce the Government support mechanisms could do likewise.

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