United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Independence poses risk to Scottish offshore wind

Academics warn of funding shortfall for major renewable projects

Scotland could have to scale back its ambitious plans for offshore wind if it became independent of the rest of the UK, according to an academic study.

The UK government could choose not to subsidise expensive renewable energy projects in Scotland if the Scottish public votes ‘yes’ in a referendum on independence scheduled for autumn 2014. This is the primary conclusion of a paper published in Political Quarterly journal. It would be difficult for Scotland to fund such projects itself, the paper adds.

Scottish leader Alex Salmond has dismissed such concerns, saying the UK needs Scottish renewables to meet its EU target of 15% of electricity consumption by 2020. This means the nations will continue to work together after a ‘yes’ vote, according to Salmond. Scotland has little offshore wind capacity – just 190MW – but more than 5GW is in the permitting process, some of which could be fullly commissioned by 2020.

The academics warn of two possible scenarios that would be less advantageous for Scotland. In the first, the UK’s 2020 target remains the same and it ‘trades’ renewably-generated electricity with Scotland to meet part of it. Under such a scenario, the UK could decide to trade with Scotland only if its northern neighbour’s projects were cheaper than alternatives. "Under this...England and Wales provide fewer or even no subsidies for offshore renewables from Scotland," says the paper.

The academics’ second scenario envisions the UK renegotiating its 2020 EU target because such a large proportion of Britain’s renewable resource is located in Scotland. In this case, energy consumers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland would stop funding Scottish renewable energy. "A Scottish government would no doubt continue to fund some offshore renewables, but its ability to do so would be relatively limited," conclude the academics.

For more details, read the full article published by The ENDS Report.

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