'An all Scotland focus on the potential of marine energy in the Pentland Firth is key to Scotland's energy future'. This was the central tenet of Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson's speech on energy during the energy debate in the Scottish Parliament. (17/01/08)
In the chamber Mr Gibson said that Scotland could safeguard its energy supply for the future, and that harnessing the marine potential between Orkney and Caithness was key to that outcome.
However he listed three major inhibitors against Scotland reaping the rewards that the tides offer. He listed them as: the tax gathering powers and intention of the Crown Estate; OFGEM, whose stewardship of the National Grid means that Scotland almost certainly faces the highest connection prices in Europe; as well as costs to deal with the legacy of nuclear.
He also said that the Caithness Energy Alliance conference on 6th of February in Dynamic Earth (Edinburgh) was crucial to pushing forward Scotland's energy future….
After the debate Rob said:
"The Crown Estate's main motive is greed. They are the landlords of the seabed and will extract major rents from marine development whether it be tidal, wind or electricity cables. For an example of their practices you need only look at the money it levies on harbours such as Scrabster. They charged them £36,000 a year and do not reinvest in the area."
In 2004 Mr Gibson asked the Scottish Executive what rent the Crown Estate charged for under sea electricity transmission cables. He received the response that there was no fixed price. In light of the recent announcements from the body he will be revisiting this question.
"The Office of Oil Gas and Electricity Market (OFGEM) charges 30 times more for remote parts of Scotland to hook up to the national grid than it costs in Denmark. In the same report it shows that Scotland almost certainly faced the highest connection charges in Europe. This is a scandal which puts real questions of Scotland's energy future and these questions have not gone away."
On the cost of nuclear he said…
"Each year £175 millions goes toward decommissioning Dounreay. It is quite correct that a thorough job must be done with proper wages going to the work force. However the cost of new nuclear and the subsequent cost of decommissioning the old ones will divert important investment away from renewables."
"It is time that Scotland starts looking to its future energy security needs. This means using the potential that is on its doorstep. That means wind, wave and tide. Caithness and Orkney are key to that future. Much is already in place now, what is needed is a final push to make it happen. However those inhibitors are also there and until Scotland has full control over these inhibitors then our energy future is not yet secure."
"When Westminster talks about energy security they talk about securing energy supplies from Asia and the Middle East. However, for Scotland, energy security is found on its own door step. I think it more prudent and moral to look for it there than thousands of miles away."