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SNP commitment to diverse and low-carbon energy mix to be commended

I STRONGLY back the Scottish Government's position on extending the life of Hunterston and Torness, when that point comes ("Concerns over wind power policy", The Herald, December 7, and Letters, December 7) and commend the vision of 100% equivalent renewables.

The devil is very much in the economic detail, and I believe the no-new-nuclear stance may need to be reconsidered eventually: not because we have solved all questions about nuclear power (for instance, only 50 years' worth of uranium reserves, and a persistent lack of political will to finally stow radioactive waste safely deep underground), but rather because of the current lack of baseload generation options from renewable sources.

Nuclear power is at least the best of a number of poorer options, and if we could pioneer thorium-based generation in this country, alongside carbon capture and storage to support responsible use of fossil fuels, then we would have a credible bridge to a world-leading low-carbon future.

However, renewable baseload generation remains elusive at present, given the limitations of large-scale biomass. The only realistic other contenders in this part of the world are geothermal and tidal. While Scotland leads the world in research into tidal generation, it has yet to break its duck on geothermal – though recent meetings have shown that the will exists to change that. While wind is an established technology, it cannot supply baseload or demand-tracking generation.

It is therefore never likely to provide more than about 20% of total energy supply. Even if it is to meet that threshold, we would still need to at least double current installed capacity, mainly offshore.

However, we have an urgent need to establish a supply chain for offshore wind in Scotland, if we are to avoid the economic benefits of being the world's largest offshore wind user being exported to manufacturers in mainland Europe. I know the Scottish Government understands this and is doing what it can to turn the situation around. When all is said and done, it is precisely because the Scottish Government has a genuine commitment to a diverse and low-carbon energy mix that I recently relocated north of the Border.

Professor Paul L Younger,

Rankine Chair of Engineering and Professor of Energy Engineering,

School of Engineering, James Watt Building (South,)

University of Glasgow, Glasgow.

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Education

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