Tripping the Holyrood power switch

Image copyright PA
Image caption The renewables industry is reluctant to be drawn into the debate about Scotland's constitutional future

The Citigroup analysts who warned clients they should exercise "extreme caution" before investing in Scottish renewable energy may well be regretting it now.

Their assessment of the risks of Scottish independence if its renewable generation is cut off from southern markets and subsidies has been furiously denounced by the Scottish government and its supporters.

It was described as "alarmist" by the new director general of the Institute of Directors and the arguments were filleted by, among others, Altium Securities.

And now, SSE has pitched in to knock back the doubters about investment. You might say it has a vested interest, as it ploughs billions into renewable energy of various technologies.

With its half-year figures, the Perth-based company formerly known as Scottish and Southern Energy has pointed out that it already operates in the Republic of Ireland as well as across devolved boundaries in the UK.

"Different constitutional arrangements apply in each of these jurisdictions," it points out. "They are, however, all within the EU and there is a common EU energy policy, the central goals of which (security of supply, competitiveness and sustainability) are laid down in the Lisbon Treaty.

"This means, for example, that all member states are required to support the achievement of legally-binding targets for more renewable energy.

"The EU Renewable Energy Directive aims at 'facilitating cross-border support of energy from renewable sources' and 'introduces optional co-operation mechanisms between member states which allow them to agree on the extent to which one member state supports energy production in another and on the extent to which the energy production from renewable sources should count towards the national target of one or the other'."

To put it another way, the common European energy policy gives each state a target for reducing emissions, and it makes sense for them to buy their renewables from the part of Europe that produces renewable energy most efficiently.

For marine and wind power, that would be Scotland.

So SSE is telling its investors to cheer up and Citigroup to pipe down. But it's not going to be drawn into anything more controversial about Scotland's constitutional affairs:

"Whatever the constitutional arrangements adopted within EU member states, they need to support the achievement of such targets and of sustainable energy supplies generally.

"SSE strongly believes that constitutional arrangements and questions of nationhood are matters for voters and are not something on which it is appropriate for SSE to comment on."

That's a warning to those who would wish to draw the renewables energy industry into the political battle that's gathering pace rapidly.

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