Scots "don't need new nuclear", minister insists

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Scotland's energy minister Jim Mather insisted today that "our people don't want new nuclear power and we don't need it", as he revealed new figures on renewable energy.

Speaking at the Scottish Council for Development & Industry energy conference at Murrayfield Stadium, the minister said wind farms, hydro power projects and marine renewables will mean Scotland should "comfortably" surpass its renewable energy targets set for 2011.

The anti-nuclear Scottish Nationalist Party administration is aiming to generate 31% of electricity in Scotland from renewable sources by 2011 and 50% by 2020.

Mr Mather said Scotland had "won the energy lottery" with estimations of more than 60GW of potential renewable energy available - 10 times Scotland's peak electricity consumption.

Along with £800 million of investment in new wind farms and biomass power plants consented this summer, the minister suggested "we are still just scratching at the surface of what we can achieve in areas like marine renewables or biomass".

The minister said: "That is why this government has built its energy policy around mining this rich potential and will not make the potentially costly, harmful and damaging mistake of considering new nuclear power generation for Scotland. The Scottish Parliament has endorsed that position - our people don't want new nuclear power and we don't need it."

Scotland has 2GW of nuclear capacity, and as a result of unplanned outages, nuclear's share of generation fell from 38% to 26% in Scotland.

The 1,364MW Hunterstone B plant in North Ayrshire is due to be decommissioned in 2016, while the 1,215MW Torness plant in East Lothian is set to close in 2023, although British Energy is keen to extend its lifespan.

Renewables figures
Filling the energy gap when Scotland's nuclear power plants shut will be renewable energy, the Scottish Government insists.

It has assembled data on the number and size of renewable energy projects too small to have their planning applications determined by ministers, which would include wind projects under 50MW in output and hydro power schemes under 1MW.

Scotland has 2.8GW of renewable energy capacity already installed, and along with the 2.5GW of major projects that ministers are currently considering, the figures suggest 5.5GW of new renewable energy capacity could be operational by 2011.

Ministers are currently assessing 36 proposals including 26 wind farms, nine hydro schemes and one wave project.

To reach Scotland's 31% target, it would have to source 5GW of electricity from renewable sources, meaning it is "well on course" to meet the target, with "plenty of time" for more projects to come forward, the government said.

In particular, Scottish ministers are keen to promote wave and tidal power projects, and environment minister Michael Russell spoke today about his visit to a tidal energy project in New York.

There he witnessed two new turbines being lowered into place beneath the city's East River at the Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy Project. The scheme is being developed by Verdant Power.

"The technology is still at an early stage but by learning from other early adopters projects such as the one I saw in New York we can ensure that Scotland is at the frontier," Mr Russell said of the project.

While in the USA, Mr Russell also met with energy-from-waste specialists Covanta Energy and renewable energy investor Good Energies.

He said: "These are exciting times. We are at the start of a major new era for renewable energy and upon my return I look forward to sharing what I have learned in the USA with Energy Minister Jim Mather and the rest of my Scottish Government colleagues."

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