'Urgent action' needed to secure energy supply

Image caption,
Energy boss said urgent action was needed to secure the country's energy supply

The boss of one of Scotland's most successful companies has warned MSPs that urgent action is needed to secure the country's energy supply.

Rupert Soames, chief executive of Aggreko, said no industrialised country planned to lose so much of its current generating capacity as fast as Britain.

And he ridiculed government targets for renewable energy as "unrealistic".

Mr Soames was speaking at Holyrood, during a Business in Parliament conference.

He said Britain was not looking an attractive place to invest when other nations were also wanting to renew their power stations.

Glasgow company Aggreko has grown rapidly in recent years by providing temporary power units, assembled in Dumbarton, to developing countries where electricity blackouts have held back economic growth.

Mr Soames now worries one of those countries may soon be the United Kingdom.

'Deep trouble'

He said: "It is not an argument that Scotland should not have a fantastic presence in renewables, my argument is that policy-making is so focused on the end of the road that you can't see the pothole 300 yards ahead.

"In Scotland, as in England, we cannot ignore the realities of what is possible in engineering and financial terms.

"If we persist in thinking only about 2030, we will be in deep trouble in pretty short order, for Scotland and for renewables.

"I urge policymakers in Scotland to do more on the question of how Scotland is going to respond to the fact that the National Grid, on which we all depend, will lose 30% of its generating capacity by 2018."

A Scottish government spokesman said: "Our commitment is clear and recognising that governments need to stimulate private investment through strategic public investment, the First Minister last week announced a £70 million national renewables infrastructure fund to support major manufacturing and strengthen our ports and harbours infrastructure."

Scottish Liberal Democrat energy spokesman Liam McArthur said Mr Soames' speech was the "highlight" of the conference.

He added: "However, Mr Soames was also wrong in a number of important respects, he glossed over the vast subsidies paid out to the nuclear industry, ignored the effect putting a true price on the cost of carbon might be and seemed to downplay the need for managing energy demand.

"That said, he could not have been more right in urging politicians of all parties to focusing on the pot-holes on the road ahead."

Conservative energy spokesman, Gavin Brown, said: "It is the SNP's blinkered dogma which is threatening to turn out the lights across Scotland by refusing to consider continued nuclear power as part of the energy mix."

'Difficult issues'

Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: "Rupert Soames is quite right to say we can't sit around dreaming, but the idea that Scotland can't meet 10% of its power needs from wind is simply factually wrong.

He continued: "Scottish Government research from 2001 showed that we could meet our own electricity needs almost six times over from renewables alone.

Labour finance spokesman Andy Kerr said: "Labour fully supports the drive to produce more electricity from renewable sources but ministers need to listen to what they are being told and stop dodging difficult issues."

Niall Stuart, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, said: "Scotland already gets around a quarter of its electricity from renewables and our research shows that we can, and should, aspire to at least 80% coming from renewables by 2020.

"This will guarantee reliable, secure and competitive energy and will also ensure that Scotland harnesses the massive economic, social and environmental benefits of renewables, driving progress towards UK targets on climate change."

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