Recent criticisms of Scottish Government energy policy ("Realistic approach to energy is vital", The Herald, November 4) have focused on the impact of independence on future investment, and the practicalities of delivering an energy policy dominated by renewables.

However these criticisms miss two important points.

First, in responding to criticism, First Minister Alex Salmond notes that Scottish offshore wind will be essential if the UK is to meet its renewable energy targets.

Herein lies the problem. Scotland will not be offering low cost energy which can compete for customers, but extremely expensive energy whose only purpose is to meet political goals. Our energy policy is therefore tethered to the continuation of these goals and the largesse of industrial and domestic consumers to pay for them. This an assumption which will be sorely tested in the years ahead if renewable energy production grows sharply while the economy remains flat.

Second, aside from the level of subsidy required to make offshore wind viable, and where that subsidy will come from, Citigroup has rightly flagged up shale gas as a major game changer with the potential to re-shape future energy markets.

With the recent discovery of major shale gas in the north of England, an entirely plausible scenario is that the UK Government will step back from renewable energy targets and opt for an energy policy based largely on methane and nuclear. Methane generates less than half the carbon emissions of coal and, along with nuclear, offers the most cost effective way to reduce emissions. Scotland would then be left with an expensive renewable energy infrastructure, and little in the way of export customers.

Unfortunately our energy policy has been largely dominated by rhetoric in recent years, rather than sound engineering and economics. Scotland does of course have a proud history in shaping energy production but let’s remember that James Watt’s steam engine did not need government mandate or subsidy. It succeeded simply because it could deliver efficient, reliable and low cost energy.

Colin R McInnes,

23 Williamwood Park West,



It is good to see an impartial professional assessment of Scottish energy policy by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (“Scots fuel poverty fears over green energy plans”, The Herald, November 4).

I look forward to reading their equivalent assessments for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Perhaps then we will be able to do the maths to understand who will contribute most to meeting the UK’s legally binding reductions in emissions and agree who should pay the penalties when those reductions are not met.

Ian Innes,

10 Queens Court,


The recent interventions of Citigroup and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers highlight once again the irrationality of the Scottish Government’s ill thought out energy policy and its mad dash for wind power.

Citigroup suggests that Scottish consumers would not, on their own, be able to afford the cost. The Scottish Government’s response is that much of the windpower would be exported. That requires the availability of wind power matching the real-time demand from our neighbours. As wind is uncontrollable and the chance of the output and demand being matched is just that: sheer chance.

Denmark, despite its many thousands of wind turbines, is a net importer of power with much of its windpower being exported at an operating loss.

If Denmark can’t meet its own electricity requirements from wind power is it likely that we will?

It is long past time that the planning of electricity production was taken out of the hands of politicians, for whom the matter is clearly too complex and handed back to an independent body of engineers who know what they are talking about.

Electricity planning is also too important to be left to the market.

Andrew Mitchell,

4 Glenpark Avenue,


An article in your personal finance pages urges energy consumers to use comparison websites regularly in order to save up to £300 a year on their gas and electricity bills (“Switch energy provider to minimise fuel bill inflation”, The Herald, November 5). If only it were that simple.

To the best of my knowledge, all but one of the accredited comparison websites are profit-making businesses, so their recommendations are liable to be influenced by commissions they receive. Apart from that, there are so many energy providers in the market that the results of a website comparison are likely to overwhelm all but the most stout-hearted and savvy consumer. I have just made such a comparison, using the Which? Switch website, and the result offers me no less than 28 ways I could save up to £198 a year. Tempting on the face of it, but I won’t be doing it. Not because I don’t want to save money but because I am scunnered at the lot of them.

Your article claims the greatest savings can be made by switching to a dual fuel online tariff, paying by direct debit. A year ago I switched to my existing supplier’s cheapest tariff – a dual fuel online tariff, paying by monthly direct debit. I have always been cynical about the claimed benefits of switching, but the promised annual saving seemed persuasive. Now my provider has notified me that tariff is about to end, and that they will switch me back to their standard online tariff. This arbitrary move will increase my gas and electricity prices by 13% and 10% respectively – rather more than the savings I made by switching.

I am confirmed in my view that the claimed benefits of switching, and the emphasis on comparison websites, are largely a benign deception.

The removal of online tariffs is reported to be part of the drive, encouraged by Ofgem and the UK Government, to simplify energy pricing for the benefit of consumers. How ironic, but how fortuitous for the energy companies, that simplification, in this instance, translates into increased revenue and bigger profits. Whether this simplification will help those most affected by fuel poverty, and if so, how, remains to be seen.

Underlying all of this is a supine UK Government which refuses to seriously challenge the predatory activities of the big energy providers on a captive market. The Government, of course, has no real incentive to see domestic energy prices fall in real terms, since the 5% VAT revenue on energy bills guarantees well over £1 billion a year to the Treasury’s coffers.

Those in Government patronise us by promising that we are all in this together. To me it seems that we’re on our own.

Iain Stuart,

34 Oakbank Crescent, Perth.