Murdo Fraser is Conservative MSP for Mid-Scotland & Fife and Convenor of the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy & Tourism Committee. He writes in a personal capacity. Follow Murdo on Twitter.
Earlier this week saw the publication of the Energy Bill, and the suggestion that the household energy bills could rise by £200 a year to pay subsidies to new nuclear and renewable energy developments. At a time of rising fuel poverty, these figures must give cause for concern.
In a purely free market, we would simply invest in the cheapest form of electricity generation, which at present is burning fossil fuels. Even with the recent rises in wholesale gas prices, conventional generation is cheaper than nuclear, which in turn is substantially cheaper than renewables like wind power. But we don’t have a free market. Other factors, such as the need to reduce CO2 emissions, and the drive for security of supply, have to be factored in. And in relation to the latter we have recently become a net importer of gas, although that situation may well change with the discovery of large shale gas deposits.
So the Government’s approach is to offer subsidies, funded by increases to our electricity bills, to encourage the creation of new nuclear plants and wind farms. We, whether or not we accept human activity contributes to climate change, and even if we detest inefficient, intermittent wind turbines ruining our landscape, have no say in the matter.