The Scottish Government recently launched a consultation on a revised energy strategy. The existing policy is to produce the equivalent of 100% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2020. The new policy is to produce the equivalent of 50% of all energy consumed from renewable sources by 2030 – in 13 years time. Electricity currently represents 22% of energy consumption and we are now at 59% renewables, suggesting that 13% of all energy currently comes from renewable sources. The new plan calls for renewable output to increase approximately 4 fold. It is also planned that our two nuclear power stations will close in this time frame.
Space heating currently consumes 53% of energy and is predominantly provided by natural gas. The new plan calls for hydrogen derived from natural gas combined with CCS to sequester the CO2. Scotland is to become world leader in the hydrogen economy. I suspect we will find ourselves leading a group of 1 country that may quickly go to the wall should these proposals be implemented.
[Image is Whitelee wind farm just south of Glasgow is the UK’s largest onshore wind farm. 215 turbines have a combined capacity of 539 MW.]
The consultation report – Scottish Energy Strategy: The future of energy in Scotland – is drenched in the language of fake Green science. But the report does contain an informative chapter on the current Scottish energy system that is to be the focus of this post. I have used 10 of the 13 diagrams from this chapter of the report but have provided my own narrative on what the data actually shows and the diagrams are not posted in order. This is the first of a number of posts on this subject where I hope to engage with well-informed and interested parties across Scotland.
The new policy is summarised in this statement from Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse:
A new 2030 ‘all energy’ renewables target is proposed in this draft Energy Strategy – setting an ambitious challenge to deliver the equivalent of half of Scotland’s heat, transport and electricity needs from renewable sources and drawing together the ambition for a full transition in each area of energy supply and use.
And it is worth documenting this passage from page 49:
146. Looking ahead to 2050, this Energy Strategy must consider a future after the current generation of nuclear electricity plants in Scotland. The Scottish Government’s policy is that these plants should not be replaced with new nuclear generation, under current technologies.
From which it is clear that Scotland aims to decarbonise its energy sector without using nuclear power, the one technology proven to deliver the stated goals of reliable, affordable and low C electricity. Hunterston B power station is scheduled to close in 2023 and Torness in 2030. The latter will likely be extended. Scotland therefore will find itself in the same absurd situation as Germany where expanding renewables cannot compensate for lost nuclear capacity and CO2 emissions rise.
Current Energy Use and Sources
Diagram 1 Primary energy supply in Scotland is still dominated by FF that account for 91%. But most of this is exported in the form of oil and gas. Note that this graphic is dated 2014 and coal production (7%) most probably went to Longannet power station that has since closed. Where renewables fit into consumption is not made clear but they are probably part of “electricity”. It is difficult to reconcile this graphic with Diagram 6 that shows 53% of energy consumed going to heating, which does not tally with 27% of consumption from gas. I suspect Diagram 6 is correct and that petroleum products and natural gas are transposed in Diagram 1.
Thanks to the oil and gas industry, Scotland already exports 74% of the energy produced (84% of 88%) (Diagram 1). There are a couple of interesting points from this graphic. Notably 12% of 860 TWh not consumed goes to conversion losses (power stations?) energy industry own use and distribution losses (power lines and pipelines?). These losses amount to 103 TWh, a non-trivial amount compared with the 169 TWh consumed.
Diagram 6 How energy is used in Scotland. See caption to Diagram 1. Natural gas is the main fuel used for space heating (Diagram 7) and consumption has declined as energy prices rose (Diagram 9).
Diagram 6 (above) shows the current configuration of energy demand in Scotland. Heat accounts for 53% of all energy consumed, and 79% of that is provided by natural gas with a further 7% coming from oil (Diagram 7, below).
So if I understand correctly, Scotland is going to aim to replace the existing reliance on FF for space heating with renewable energy by 2030 amounting to half of 53% of 169TWh = 89.6 TWh.
Diagram 7 Mains gas accounts for 79% of space heating in Scotland. Rural communities that have no mains supply use either fuel oil or liquefied gas (propane?). “Other” will include coal and wood.
Diagram 8 shows that 74% of energy consumed in homes goes on space heating. I’m not sure why renewables are included in this diagram.
In chapter 3, I found this on page 35 in relation to providing heat:
- While more analysis will be required, there is some evidence to suggest that hydrogen can offer significant cost savings for customers compared to alternative low carbon heat sources such as electricity, or district heating. A recent KPMG report also found it more practical and more acceptable to customers.
- Hydrogen gas at scale will most likely require natural gas (methane) as the source feedstock and as such in order to be low carbon, carbon capture and storage facilities will be a necessary system requirement. Scotland is therefore uniquely placed to support an emerging hydrogen economy.
Aiming to replace methane as the main source of heating with hydrogen derived from methane, produced using steam reformation, and combined with carbon capture and storage (CCS), strikes me as totally insane. Amongst other things, I can’t work out why methane + CCS should be considered renewable. I am working on the thermodynamics of this proposal that will be the subject of a forthcoming post. Steam reformation can be summarised as follows:
Steam-methane reforming reaction
CH4 + H2O (+ heat) → CO + 3H2
Water-gas shift reaction
CO + H2O → CO2 + H2 (+ small amount of heat)
CH4 + 2H2O → CO2 + 4H2
Needless to say, this process, including the CCS, will use a lot of energy and money. Why not simply fit CCS to a CCGT?
Transport in Scotland accounts for 25% of energy used and is virtually 100% FF with only a small part of the rail network electrified (Diagram 6). The report gives no clear guidance how 50% of transport will be converted to renewable energy. Bio fuels, and their attendant problems, for example the use of crop lands to grow transport fuel, are mentioned along with electric cars.
Electricity accounts for 22% of energy demand (Diagram 6) and 59% of this already comes from renewable sources in a gross sense in 2015 (Diagram 4). In a net sense, Scotland still uses Peterhead CCGT and imported FF electricity from England to balance the grid and to back up when the wind does not blow.
Taking into account electricity from Scotland’s two nuclear power stations, our electricity system is already decarbonised.
Diagrams 4, 11, 2, 9 and 12 all show trends in renewables production, energy consumption or price. In general terms, as renewables penetration rises so do prices and our energy use goes down. This is energy poverty manufactured in Holyrood (seat of the Scottish Government).
Diagram 4 The growth in renewables.
Diagram 4 illustrates the success of the current policy with Scotland on track to produce 100% equivalent of supply by 2020. What the report does not mention is that this is made possible by paying wind producers to not produce (constraint payments) and by Scotland being able to dump surplus power on England via the expanding array of inter connectors. The current system is also propped up by FF electricity imports from England. I don’t believe the consultation report mentions any of this. Notably “other” includes solar PV, an illustration of how totally useless solar is in dark and dreary Scotland. But this point is lost on the authors of the report who say this on page 41:
- Solar Photovoltaic (Solar PV) capacity in Scotland is estimated to be enough to power the equivalent of approximately 50,000 homes.
- Favourable levels of solar radiation combined with temperate climate is conducive to further solar PV investment – especially in Eastern Scotland and the Central Belt.
- Combining storage with wind and solar assets presents the most valuable solution for the energy system as a whole, allowing demand to be managed locally.
Suggesting that Scotland has favourable solar radiation and that we can store wind and solar power locally is pure Green hogwash fantasy.
Diagram 11 shows how domestic gas and electricity bills have risen since 2005. While wholesale gas prices have risen in this period, politicians ought to look at Diagram 4 (above) and Diagram 11 (below) and ask to what extent the rise in electricity price is linked to government policy deploying expensive and unreliable renewable energy.
Diagram 11 Gas and electricity prices have risen, in part due to rising wholesale price of gas and in part due to the deployment of expensive renewables that incur costs in the devices themselves, in constraint payments and system costs for interconnection, additional load balancing service and backup.
Diagram 2 shows how nuclear generation has been flat, cheap gas and coal have been pushed out expensive renewables have grown in share of Scottish electricity supply.
Diagram 9 shows falling domestic gas consumption.
Falling domestic gas consumption may in part reflect improved energy efficiency by way of more efficient boilers (furnace if you are American) and better insulation. But it also in part reflects mounting energy poverty where households cannot afford to use as much gas as they once did. Once again, rising wholesale energy prices are partly to blame. But a government policy of making consumers use expensive and unreliable electricity will inevitably play a role.
Diagram 12 Electricity prices in Europe.
Diagram 12 shows electricity prices in Europe. Note that the large variations in tax relate to how different countries treat subsidies. Denmark and Germany treat subsidies as tax while the UK does not. Politicians would do well to note that high renewables countries Denmark, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Ireland have the highest electricity prices while high nuclear countries Finland and France have the lowest electricity prices.
The Scottish government’s aim of providing secure and cheap electricity using renewables is simply a contradiction and denial of reality.
An Integrated View of Energy Demand
Diagram 10 Scottish gas (space heating), transport (oil) and electricity (nuclear and wind that powers appliances) 2013 to 2015.
I say in the introduction that Chapter 2 of the consultation report, Understanding Scotland’s Energy System was informative. While its narrative leaves much to be desired, the diagrams are very good and I’ve saved the best to last. This chart confirms that Diagram 6 is correct, heat ahead of transport ahead of electricity and that Diagram 1 must therefore be in error.
I believe this chart is plotting daily averages (the scale is GWh/day) which for electricity removes the large daily cycle. But we still see that maximum daily demand in winter is about 100 GWh and minimum demand in summer is about 50 GWh. The electricity supply system must be able to follow this demand pattern exactly. I will merely observe at present that peak demand is in winter when solar PV generation is all but zero, the exact opposite of a favourable level.
Transport energy demand shows no seasonal pattern and appears to be quite flat although there may be a weakly discernible upwards trend.
It is the cycle in natural gas demand (heating) that is eye popping. Peak winter demand is 300 GWh / day. Minimum summer demand is 50 GWh / day. At the moment this cycle is met by the oil companies opening and closing the spigots on gas wells in the North Sea.
This factor of 6 variation in natural gas demand will be nigh impossible to follow using renewable energy. And so enter the Scottish Government’s sleight of hand. They propose to continue to use natural gas, converted to hydrogen, in future and to make believe that this is renewable energy. Calculating the cost of this folly is currently high on my list of priorities.