CAN we believe all that we read? Or are we able to differentiate between
hype and reality?
Today’s Herald is full of news about Scotland leading the world in
renewables and “competition” between Scotland and Edinburgh to pass the
“carbon-neutral” post first (“Scotland leads way with green industrial
revolution”, The Herald, May 15). The contribution from ScottishPower’s CEO
has a high profile (“‘The world is changing and we can share in
renewables”, The Herald, May 15). The CEO, with a career in banking, leads
what was once one of Scotland’s leading powerhouses in engineering
excellence across all disciplines and led from the top by engineers. It is
now a subsidiary of Iberdrola in Spain and divested of all of its
generating diversity except wind generation (at midday today, May 15, the
contribution from wind has climbed from two per cent to three per cent).
There are two issues which Herald readers should consider. The first is,
can we trust a marketing-led economy, which puts profit before public
service, to engineer a robust transition from fossil-based energy with
security of supply as its sole purpose?
The second issue is, we will only ever reach the decarbonised future by
deploying engineering skills. What is the incentive for our children to opt
for careers in science, engineering and technology in a system where the
economics are driven by profits? The inevitable result is that almost all
the “captains of industry” are led by the financial professions and their
appetite for disproportionate pay.
Lest there be some misunderstanding, I support competition and the pursuit
of profit in most areas of human endeavour. However, I believe it is
absolutely inappropriate for public utilities and, especially so, for the
generation and distribution of electrical energy. The risks will escalate
as electricity becomes the sole energy resource to support every aspect of
life. The risks are not trivial and diversity in generation resources is
essential if catastrophic failure is to be avoided. I fully support the
wishes of organisations such as the World Wildlife Fund but we need to be
realistic. We will need to depend on gas for many years. Despite the hype
Scotland’s total contribution to the world’s CO2 emissions is estimated at
0.08 per cent.