Nuclear energy supplies about 40% of the energy in Scotland, but its two plants are due to be retired in 15 years. What then? The Scots have been looking at wind energy, and that's still on course:
A new independent report has found SNP [Scottish National Party - the liberals in the Scots' political mix] ministers' target of generating half Scotland's electricity from renewable sources by 2020 is achievable.
But it will require a five-fold increase in the number of wind farms and nuclear power should still be considered longer term to provide the 'base-load' the national grid requires.
Well, that's always the way with wind, isn't it? Base-load in this instance essentially implies energy that is not affected by intermittance - you don't want your energy generation rising and falling with the tides, so to speak. But:
Despite warnings their stance could lead to the "lights going out", SNP ministers have vowed to use their control over planning applications to block any proposals for replacements.
Of the nuclear plants, that is. But, but:
It [The Scottish Council Development and Industry, which produced the report] estimates that that onshore wind farms will provide more than 80 per cent of the increase in generation from 'green' sources.
But Scotland needs to spend £10billion on new projects by 2020, with demand for electricity north of the Border predicted to rise 10 per cent.
We've seen stories like this before, notably from Germany.
Nuclear energy sometimes seems in these stories a trap for the unwary - an unappealing but plausible energy source to complement wind farms because nuclear doesn't produce the emissions that make renewable energy sources attractive in the first place.
(There's another element, too: wind energy looks great in TV ads, as benign as kittens. Nuclear energy has had a nice image overhaul to better match its reality, but using it still involves an industrial plant - just like coal. A nuclear plant just isn't as pretty as a windmill. Let's not underestimate the power of images to affect - and warp - policy.)
This is the real trap:
The report concludes the best mix of electricity would be a balanced combination of renewables and fossil fuels that produce less carbon.
Well, yes, that might be nice, but which fossil fuel that produces less carbon might they have in mind? Advanced coal technologies might or might not be available, but nuclear energy is ready to roll and Scotland already has a trained workforce. Seems a no-brainer.
The report is highly in favor of nuclear energy; we'll have to see whether it really encourages Scotland to think things through a little more thoroughly.
Wind and nuclear - bff? This picture comes from Belgium not Scotland, but it fits the theme of this post rather well.