Would The Last One Out Switch The Lights Off?

Scotland is facing one of its biggest challenges in the next year as the Independence referendum approaches in 2014. At the moment, much is unclear about exactly how Scotland would function free from the mandate of Westminster.

Putting aside the emotive, Braveheart-esque rhetoric of some of those who are fervently in favour of independence, there is rather a list building up of questions around exactly how we would govern ourselves, questions over fiscal policy and, getting in on the scene, exactly Scotland’s independent energy industry would function.

The major question on this topic is whether the rest of the UK would still need to use Scottish energy should she become independent. The SNP says the answer to that question is an emphatic yes, but there are others who are not so sure this would be the case.

Renewables, as it so often does, provides the crux of this argument. The SNP is firm in its belief that England and Wales would still need Scottish energy to meet its 2020 renewables targets, Unionist parties have refuted this saying that England and Wales would actually need no Scottish contribution to meet  renewable targets.

Scotland has in the past been referred to as the “Saudi Arabia of renewables” due to  the fact that it can and has exploited vast natural gas reserves in the North Sea. Of course , you would think this vast expanse of water would also make us rather future proof since we can harness its potential in terms of wave and tidal energy.

You would expect us then to be in an enviable position should the independence vote be yes, but is the matter as cut and dried as that? Perhaps not, as the National Grid recently suggested that England and Wales could quite happily meet their renewables targets without any energy from north of the border. The rest of the UK would be under no obligation to purchase energy from Scotland after independence, in fact independence in Scotland may well drive the price up enough that it becomes prohibitive and they simply look for cheaper energy from the continent.

The question still remains however over exactly how an independent Scotland would manage its energy supplies and even if politics divides the union, is a split in energy supplies really the best thing for consumers? There are already an estimated 5 million UK households living in fuel poverty, so would a north/south split make this even worse? There has already been immense criticism of David Cameron’s government for not being seen to do enough to tackle this, so would the same problem blight an independent Scotland in the long run?

At the moment there are still too many unknown quantities to predict how this will evolve and whether Scotland and the rest of the UK will still work together to provide energy to consumers, or whether an independent Scotland really will hold some power over the rest of the UK and, metaphorically at least,  make them put 50p in the meter to keep the lights on.

JM is a keen green energy and environmental blogger and has written about a number of topics in this area, including those affecting UK Energy suppliers.

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