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MSP Briefing Renewable Energy



  MSP Briefing

Renewable Energy

On Thursday 22 April the Parliament will debate an Executive motion on renewable energy. UNISON is the largest trade union in the Scottish energy industry.

UNISON Scotland believes that any proposal to expand the generation of energy from renewable sources has to be seen in the context of the Scottish energy industry as a whole. This industry is vital to the Scottish economy and is facing serious challenges.

UNISON Scotland supports the expansion of generating capacity through renewable sources with more challenging targets. We believe the 18% target by 2010 is achievable. We do not believe the 40% target by 2020 is achievable. The scope for additional onshore wind power is limited by available sites and likely to be slowed by public opposition, however misguided that opposition may be. Other technologies remain unproven and therefore do not, at this time, justify such an optimistic assessment of their potential.

UNISON Scotland believes that unrealistic targets for renewables are already diverting government attention from the need to support clean coal technologies (CCT). We believe that the current level of UK government funding for CCT is totally inadequate. Even if renewables can be expanded Scotland still requires baseload generation currently provided by coal and nuclear power stations.

We would therefore argue that the Scottish Executive should adopt a balanced energy strategy that includes a mix of generating capacity. This would include a larger element of renewables when proven capacity can be delivered - together with gas, coal and nuclear power. Without clean coal generation and nuclear power Scotland will become an importer of energy, mostly gas, from less than secure overseas sources. A position accurately portrayed in the recent BBC 'If' docudrama.

A key stumbling block to the development of a renewable energy industry in Scotland is the lack of grid capacity in areas where renewable generation is likely to occur. We remain to be convinced that the reforms in the UK Energy Bill will create the right incentives for new generation and bring large-scale investment in transmission networks. Whilst the worst aspects of Ofgem's proposals have rightly been rejected by the UK government, elements of discrimination against Scotland remain.

The Scottish Executive should focus on action to lessen any negative views within local communities, and to mitigate the environmental impact of wind turbines and transmission lines. The economics of renewable energy should be better explained to communities who are being mislead into believing that this is equivalent to oil exploration in terms of community benefit. Renewable energy is actually more expensive than other forms of generation. The planning system also needs to be better resourced so that applications are dealt with more quickly whilst retaining proper local determination.

UNISON Scotland would strongly urge the Executive to apply the Waste Framework Directive sensibly. Current interpretation of the regulations could bring to an end the combustion of Waste Derived Fuel produced from sludge at Daldowie and burnt at Longannet Power Station. This is an environmentally sound method of fuel generation and its loss would result in extra coal emissions and landfill for the sludge.

In conclusion, the Scottish Executive should promote renewable energy whilst recognising the need for a balanced energy strategy for Scotland.


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