Longannet: Vince Cable says possible closure 'no threat to energy supply'

Longannet Power Station

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The UK government's Business Secretary Vince Cable has said there is no threat to the security of Scotland's electricity supply.

His comments came after BBC Scotland's disclosure that the huge coal-fired power station at Longannet in Fife was facing a renewed threat to its future.

Mr Cable said energy could be imported from England.

Scotland's Energy Minister Fergus Ewing told BBC Radio Scotland that Longannet was necessary to "meet demand".

Scottish Power, which operates the plant, warned last year that the cost of connecting to the grid meant the power station may close earlier than planned.

It is understood talks between Scottish Power and National Grid have stalled.

'Robust manner'

Following a meeting of the Scottish Energy Advisory Board, Scotland's First Minister Ms Sturgeon wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron to call for an analysis of electricity capacity margins in Scotland.

Longannet's location puts it at a disadvantage when competing against English power stations.

Start Quote

For many years Scotland has exported energy to England on the national grid and that was a perfectly sensible arrangement”

End Quote Vince Cable UK Business Secretary

Scottish generators, including Longannet, account for about 12% of the capacity connected to Britain's high-voltage electricity network.

But, according to the Scottish government, they pay about 35% of the charges for connection to the national grid.

Ms Sturgeon said: "The Scottish government cannot accept a situation where levels of energy security in Scotland are compromised by energy policy and network operation decisions taken outside Scotland."

Speaking on BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Cable said: "This isn't an England versus Scotland issue."

He added: "Clearly there is an issue about the pricing and the connection into the grid, but that is determined by the regulator Ofgem, it is not determined politically.

"There is no issue about security of supply. I don't quite understand why this issue has flared up.

"For many years Scotland has exported energy to England on the national grid and that was a perfectly sensible arrangement.

Start Quote

I think it is a bit rich of the UK government to say it has nothing to do with them”

End Quote Fergus Ewing Scotland's Energy Minister

"There is now the possibility that there will be a reverse flow for some years until the big renewable sources in Scotland come into play.

"That is not a problem. It is a secure national grid - there isn't a threat to security of supply."

On the closure of Longannet, he said: "We are talking here about the future of 2,000 people in the immediate area, these closures have got to be very carefully managed and in a sensitive way."

Scotland's energy minister told the programme that the national grid's "assumptions about security of supply seem to be extremely optimistic".

Mr Ewing said: "I think there are two issues here - security of supply in Scotland and the UK, and the immediate threat to Longannet and to the jobs there," he said.

"I think it is a bit rich of the UK government to say it has nothing to do with them, because surely as the government they have ultimate responsibility for delivering security of supply.

"I think it is essential that we consider the very real issues involved here, which many experts in the power generation side of the industry believe mean that security of supply in the UK is far from guaranteed."

Scottish Conservative energy spokesman Murdo Fraser said there was no long-term future for Longannet but the Scottish government had done "absolutely nothing" about finding a replacement.

"All we see are SNP ministers obsessed with building more wind farms," he said.

"These might help their green credentials, but do nothing to provide power when the wind isn't blowing."

Mr Fraser said the SNP had "blocked new nuclear, slammed the door shut on shale gas, and has no plans for what happens when Torness, Hunterston and Longannet all close in the next decade".

He said: "What an irony it will be when energy-rich Scotland has to rely on energy imported from England to keep the lights on."

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