Cost challenge to the anti-renewables lobby

Critics of public funding for renewable energy developments have been challenged to look again at the level of ongoing financial support provided to other parts of the UK's energy mix.

Targeting their comments at anti-wind farm campaigners, in particular, the lobby organisation, Scottish Renewables, told Edie today that critics of renewables tend to overlook the ongoing financial support provided to other electricity generators.

“According to analysis by the OECD, coal, oil and gas prices in the UK were subsidised by £3.63bn in
2010, compared to £1.4bn of support for renewables,” said a spokesman for Scottish Renewables.

“In addition, the annual cost of nuclear decommissioning in 2011-12 is estimated to be £2.9bn. This compares to £1.1bn of support to the renewables industry in 2009-10 through the Renewables Obligation.”

The comments came in response to questions over the validity of the recently announced
£20 million upgrade for ScottishPower’s Longannet Power station in Fife. Due to take place between June and September this year, the upgrade is described as ‘significant’ by ScottishPower, involving the inspection, replacement and repair of the boiler, attention to turbine replacement parts, pump and valve components and other planned maintenance works. It’s claimed the investment will ensure the station, first opened in 1969, can continue to operate efficiently for many years to come’.

Scottish Renewables comment on the Longannet work was that ‘companies choosing to invest in upgrades is a different point to public monies being used to support a particular technology’.

“We have always made it clear that we need a mix of energy sources, and within that, a mix of renewables too,” added the spokesman. “In order to increase our energy security we need a greater proportion of our energy needs to come from renewable sources. This will also shelter consumers from the price hikes they’ve witnessed recently in energy bills thanks to volatility in the gas market.”

The Longannet plant, of course, was also the focus of a £1bn scheme to make it the UK’s first carbon capture and storage (CCS) project, a plan which collapsed in October last year.

However, when Edie asked a leading CCS specialist if the £20m upgrade would bring the plant back into CCS consideration he replied that the upgrade wasn’t relevant to the CCS debate.

“It looks like a minimum spend to me, designed to keep the existing kit cranking along.”

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