Exclusive by Sandra Dick
The green energy sector in Scotland has grown rapidly in recent years.
Scotland faces being plunged into darkness for days, possibly resulting in
deaths and widespread civil disobedience, due to the country’s
over-reliance on green energy, a new report has warned.
A massive gap in the electricity system caused by the closure of coal-fired
power stations and growth of unpredictable renewable generation has created
the real prospect of complete power failure.
According the Institution of Engineers in Scotland (IESIS), there is a
rising threat of an unstable electricity supply which, left unaddressed,
could result in “deaths, severe societal and industrial disruption, civil
disturbance and loss of production”.
READ MORE: Herald View: Dark warnings over rush to green energy
The organisation is also warning that the loss of traditional power
generating stations such as Longannet, which closed in 2016, means
restoring electricity in a “black start” situation – following a complete
loss of power – would take several days.
Its new report into the energy system points to serious power cuts in other
countries, which have resulted in civil disturbance, and warns: “A lengthy
delay would have severe negative consequences – the supply of food, water,
heat, money, petrol would be compromised; there would be limited
communications. The situation would be nightmarish.”
IESIS is now calling on the Scottish and UK governments to transform their
approach to how the electricity system is governed, with the creation of a
new national energy authority with specific responsibility for safeguarding
its long-term sustainability and avoiding blackouts.
The startling warning comes against a background of increasing reliance on
“intermittent” energy sources such as wind and solar power.
Earlier this month ScottishPower became the first major UK energy firm to
switch entirely from fossil fuels to green energy after selling its
remaining gas and hydro stations to Drax for £702 million.
The closure of Hunterston B nuclear power station in Ayrshire, scheduled
for 2023, is causing concern there will be an even wider gap in the
nation’s electricity supply. All UK coal-fired power stations are expected
to close by 2025, while reliance on electricity to meet the needs of
electric vehicles and domestic heat rises.
READ MORE: Letters: Our power grid and the Titanic scenario
The engineering body has also raised concerns that an electricity system
designed specifically for gas and coal-fired generation is being asked to
take on a new form of supply without having undergone full engineering
It also highlights a piecemeal approach to siting new energy generating
plants driven by private companies and efforts to meet CO2 emissions
targets rather than the overall security of the electricity system.
Iain MacLeod, of the IESIS, said: “The electricity system was designed with
generation coming mainly from coal and nuclear energy. However, as we
change generation sources to include intermittent renewables, we must
review how the system works with these new inputs. The risks involved when
introducing new sources of generation need to be controlled. Intermittent
renewable energy sources do not supply the same level of functionality as
power stations to meet demand at all times and avoid operational faults.
Intermittency issues … relevant to wind and solar energy have not been
IESIS has published its call to action in a report, Engineering for Energy:
A Proposal for Governance of the Energy System, which it plans to take to
the Scottish and UK governments.
It argues that Longannet was closed “well before assessments of the impact
of its closure had been completed” and adds that transmission is now being
upgraded “before detailed decisions about the siting of generation
facilities have been made”.
The EISIS report warns the closure of thermal infrastructure such as coal
and gas-fired generators will affect the restoration of supply after a
system failure, when wind generators have a limited role and nuclear
generators cannot be quickly restarted.
It also stresses that the cost of integration of intermittent renewables to
the current electricity system will lead to increasing energy costs for
It adds: “The extra generation and storage needed to safeguard security of
supply, the facilities required to ensure it is stable, extra transmission
facilities, and energy losses over power lines from remote locations will
all contribute to rising costs.”
A spokesman or SP Energy Networks, which owns and maintains the
transmission network in central and southern Scotland, said: “The
resilience of the system, and the ability to deliver an efficient and
timely Black Start restoration, minimising the social and economic aspects
of such an event, continue to be areas of particular focus.”
Scottish Conservative energy spokesman Alexander Burnett said: “No-one
disputes the need for Scotland, and everywhere else, to move towards
cleaner generation of energy.But this has to be done in a sustainable way
which ensures there are no blackouts and enough power to meet the needs of
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “While electricity policy is reserved
to the UK Government, we are working closely with National Grid and the
Scottish network companies to ensure that Scotland has a secure and stable
supply of electricity. Renewable generation now plays substantial role in
meeting electricity demand across Scotland and reducing the carbon
intensity of the electricity that we generate.
“Our energy strategy highlights the need to plan and deliver a secure,
flexible and resilient electricity system.”