Letters to the Editor

energy

The real cost to consumers of wind power

The claim that wind power is the UK’s cheapest source of electricity recently appeared in two national newspapers. Both cited Bloomberg, considered a reputable source of business information.

However, that is not quite what Bloomberg said and wind power still remains more expensive for consumers than any conventional means of generation.

What Bloomberg actually said was: “Wind power is now the cheapest electricity to produce in the UK as the price of renewable energy continues to drop.”

The first part of the sentence is correct: because of subsidies, the cost per MWh to the producer of wind energy is certainly less than that of any other technology.

The second part is incorrect and misleading, confusing price with cost. The production cost to the generator of renewables is indeed falling. However, these savings are not reflected in a fall in consumer prices.

The cost of subsidies is passed on to the consumer. Renewables Obligation (RO) payments to earlier large-scale onshore wind effectively doubled the wholesale price which the generator received. Under the rather less generous new system of guaranteed Strike Prices, onshore wind may get “only” 50-75% more than the wholesale price.

Consumers also have to pay for other costs which are a result of moving from electricity generated on demand near major consumers to electricity whose availability depends on the seasons and weather, and is mostly produced far away from where it is needed. The National Grid has to be extended and upgraded, and backup dependable generation capacity is required for when there is insufficient wind.

A comparison of the costs of several forms of generation in the UK puts the average cost of new gas generation at £68/MWh and onshore wind at £190/MWh when backup and infrastructure costs are included. With the current RO subsidy of £45/MWh, the price to the consumer will be greater still.

These costs – generation, transmission and subsidies – make up about three quarters of domestic electricity bills. Thus when all consumer-borne costs are taken into account, the cheapest windgenerated electricity is likely to be costing consumers about three times as much as electricity generated from gas. This puts even the guaranteed Strike Price of £92/MWh for Hinkley C – which being both controllable and on an existing site will incur few of the additional costs – into perspective.

Jack W. Ponton

Borders Network of

Conservation Groups

Short-changed as usual

It was only a few weeks ago that Chancellor George Osborne was crowing at signing a deal with French and Chinese firms to build a new nuclear power station in England.

He said we had to give billions in guarantees to firms before they would sign contracts to build and run the power station. Our politicians also agreed a minimum price for electricity generated for the lifetime of the contracts.

So, as usual, the British taxpayer and electricity user is short-changed. We pay tops plus to generator and for electricity generated for the lifetime of the power station. A good investment for any private company if they can get it.

When asked why we British need expensive foreign firms to build our nuclear power stations, the Chancellor said British companies and government could not afford the costs and lacked expertise for such new builds.

Hang on a minute – we already pay billions in subsidies and scandalous higher electricity prices for windmills and solar panels to cover our seas and countryside that cannot ensure our lights and heating will be on when we need them in winter.

So surely if these subsidies and guaranteed prices for windmill and solar panel-generated electricity had been used to build reliable, traditional power stations, our lights and heating would be on when we want at a reasonable cost.

Value-for-money economics are obviously not politicians’ forte.

Eric R. S. Davidson

Macduff

Banffshire

police

Meaningful scrutiny

I refer to the letter from Otto Ingles in last week’s Southern.

He states: “How much more susceptible must Police Scotland be to political pressure from the Scottish Government?”

Police Scotland is very susceptible to political pressure, evidenced by the intervention of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon some months ago in the debate over stop and search, and the ill-judged pronouncements made by Justice Secretary Michael Matheson in relation to the functioning of police control rooms.

The “independent” Scottish Police Authority, which oversees Police Scotland, is ineffective and should be abolished. The vast majority of the Scottish public do not know of its existence and an examination of the backgrounds of its members reveals they are all quango hoppers who depend on Scottish Government ministers for their largesse. None will upset their political masters for fear of not getting re-appointed or moving on to something better.

The Scottish Government boasts there is increased scrutiny of policing arrangements at local level.

I attended a meeting of the Scottish Borders Council Police, Fire and Rescue, and Safer Communities Pathfinder Board, which scrutinises policing in the Borders. Two contentious issues were discussed, one the inefficiency of the 101 telephone system, the other was the lack of police cover now being provided in this region.

The robustness of the questioning of the divisional commander by the councillors on that board was poor to say the least, with no in-depth questioning or serious challenge taking place. The greatest weakness of local scrutiny is that the local police commander is not accountable to the board.

If Police Scotland chooses to ignore the advice or recommendation provided by the board, it is free to do so. An additional weakness is that there is no formal procedure for local scrutiny committees to meet with the Scottish Police Authority or central government to air concerns about policing in their area.

So what is the answer? The introduction of police commissioners in England has been a disaster, so it would be unwise for Scotland to follow that path. No system will be perfect, but one which might work is that the Scottish Police Authority is replaced by a committee of MSPs from all parties in the parliament. About 12 to 15 should be enough, with the chair and deputy chair chosen from opposition parties so that the incumbent party of government does not rule the roost. This precedent has been set at Westminster where the Home Affairs Select Committee is chaired by a Labour MP, hopefully enabling meaningful scrutiny.

Abolition of the Scottish Police Authority would rest complete accountability for efficiency and operational control on the Chief Constable, and would eliminate the petty squabbling witnessed between the Chief Constable and the chair of the Scottish Police Authority over who does what.

The committee could also be the avenue for local scrutiny committees to voice concerns about policing in their particular area. This system of accountability would hopefully expose the fallacy of the Scottish Government’s boast of an additional 1,000 police officers on the streets of Scotland.

There may well be 1,000 additional police officers, but not many are on the street. Thousands of civilian support staff have gone through natural wastage or redundancy, but many of the functions have not disappeared and are now carried out by police officers.

Unfortunately, the Scottish Government is anchored to the 1,000 extra bobbies on the beat and dare not let this go for fear of censure from opposition parties.

Police Scotland would be better letting 1,000 police posts go and employing 1,800-2,000 civilian support staff to take much of the routine and back office work away from its front-line officers.

That will take a degree of magnanimity and support from the opposition parties in the realisation that it is a common sense move. A sense of duty to the people of Scotland should override any temptation to make political capital from it.
Highly unlikely, I know, but we can all live in hope.

Harry Scott

Galashiels

Extreme paranoia

Otto Inglis (letters, November 5) claims that the Named Person Scheme will cause “every family in Scotland to be spied on and every parent treated as a suspect”.

This is paranoia at its most extreme.

The Named Person provision has been brought in to ensure that where there is a child protection concern there will be one agreed point of contact in the form of a named person who is responsible for co-ordinating the communications of all the agencies which may be involved in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of that child.

No one is going to be going round snooping on families.

Natasha York

Cypress Grove

Jedburgh

TAPESTRY

Crummy criticism

J. Avery-Mann is perfectly entitled to criticise the decision to house the Great Tapestry of Scotland at Tweedbank (letters, November 5), but he loses all sympathy by his quite unnecessary belittling of the tapestry itself.

He chooses to place inverted commas around “Great”, as if it is undeserving of that title. Later he goes on to refer to the “Crummy Tapestry”. No one could possibly believe that he was unaware of the pun when he wrote that. An innocent, naïve mistake? I’ll take some convincing.

The tapestry is a fantastic work of art, thanks to the brilliant designs of Andrew Crummy and the hundreds of dedicated stitchers throughout the country. It is an achievement of which every Scot should be proud.

Andrew Binnie

Kelso

alcoholism

Help available for families

Alcoholism is a disease which is widespread and debilitating for families.

At Al-Anon Family Groups, we try to reach out to families who need help.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a valuable help to many problem drinkers. But we would like to raise awareness that there is also help for the friends and families.

We have groups in Selkirk, Hawick and Peebles. Further details can be found on the website: www.al-anonuk.org.uk.

Isobel

Galashiels