This is the kind of false dichotomy that actually works – at a glance. Many Scots have grown up believing that nuclear power is no solution to our energy needs. We protested againstTorness and got pissed over Dounreay – the £140,000 fine for trashing the place over 21 years is the same as a single full time employee on minimum wage! Back then we argued the case for renewables, so why should we change positions now?
Onshore wind energy makes sense if it’s handled with care. But the rush to wind is yet another unstable approach to energy policy. Who the hell understands ROCs? I do, do you? ROCs are the currency used to rig the rush to renewables – the indispensible ingredients that are great to have and impossible not to have – renewable obligation certificates. Given that onshore wind turbines are the cheapest way of getting at these, energy companies have to build them to avoid having to buy them in the market. It doesn’t actually matter whether the turbines are profitable. The short-term need to “have” certificates (that’s the meaning of obligation) means that investmentsin longer term solutions – offshore wind, wave, tidal – are not incentivised. The rigging of the market by Tony Blair’s government has generated a renewable equation that can only have one solution – onshore wind turbines.
So why does this matter? It matters because Scotland is being staked out by speculators trying to get planning permission. They bring bribes of millions to small communities and hope to “cash poor” landowners up and down the country – some of whom previously sold out to sheep, then trees, then fishfarms. Windmills are just the latest get-rich-quick scheme for rural Scotland. There is no national political strategy. Instead there is the distinct possibility that the cumulative impact of multiple onshore wind turbines and their associated pylons will serve a change of use notice on the Scottish countryside. The sheep might not object, but the tourists will. Those who bang on about windmills being things of beauty are just lacking experience. I might say that a particular car is beautiful but when you’re stuck in a traffic jam on the M25, beauty is nowhere present. When we have turned ourcountry into an industrial generating plant VisitScotland is going out of business and so are all those rural communities which thought wind was an alternative energy supply not an alternative to tourism.
I want a rational energy policy that isn’t rigged by engineers and bean counters with no respect for people – so does that mean my opposition to the rapacious rush to onshore wind will let nuclear in by the back door? Obviously not. Nuclear is coming, whatever your views about wind. The government didn’t rig the consultation because it was worried about anti-wind turbine protestors. The linkage between windfarms and nuclear is spurious. So let’s not sacrifice the Scottish countryside in order to appease the mutant nuclear monster – it’s just not worth it. If you want to stop nuclear – that’s in a following blog.
So what’s this got to do with 1707? The rush to wind is just another symptom of the way Scotland is treated as a utilitarian appendage. The depopulation of the highlands means there are fewer people to object or greater reason why the remaining inhabitants should crave the few turnkey jobs the turbines bring. The reality is that Scotland only used 58% of its generating capacity in 2004 – the rest of the capacity was either idle or exported to England. Funny that you won’t get any more up to date data on Scottish exports this side of independence because in 2005 the system was changed to stop Scottish figures being separately identified. I’m not a conspiricist per se, but hey didn’t you know that energy is a reserved matter outwith the power of the Scottish Exec and we are becoming England’s generating plant whatever the cost to us. On the other hand, if Scotland had the confidence to go our own way, the surplus of supply would be a fine place to start from – even if Scottish Power is owned by the Spanish!