Talks About Longannet Closure

26 March 2015, 06:00

The premature closure of Longannet power station at a time of falling spare capacity in the system is a "national scandal'', the energy minister has said.

Fergus Ewing told MSPs yesterday the Scottish Government would "strain every sinew'' to help employees at the struggling Fife station if the closure cannot be averted.

Mr Ewing's meeting union leaders to talk about what they plan to do next.

Operator Scottish Power has said that it will ''in all likelihood'' shut by March 2016 after losing out on a short-term National Grid contract to Peterhead.

In a statement at Holyrood, Mr Ewing defended the Government's renewables policy against claims it was harming power stations such as Longannet.

He said: "Some members opposite believe the development of renewables has harmed the prospects of thermo stations. Those arguments are false.

"They might have carried some credibility if we were in a situation of healthy oversupply, but spare capacity in the GB system has fallen to as low as 2% by next winter.

"The fact that we are even debating Longannet's future at exactly the point when the UK authorities have allowed energy security to dwindle so severely is a national scandal.''

Mr Ewing said the Government was "determined'' to explore any option that might avert the premature closure of Longannet.

The plant has been under pressure from new European Union (EU) environmental legislation and carbon taxation combined with higher transmission charges to connect to the grid due to its location in Scotland.

Mr Ewing said the UK transmission charging regime had "uniquely disadvantaged'' Longannet, which was forced to pay £40 million to connect to the grid.

He said: "We believe the decision taken by National Grid and endorsed by the outgoing UK Government is flawed, and it fails to take account of serious flaws in the UK electricity supply system.

"Scotland has an established policy towards its electricity generation, one which recognises the need to maintain a balanced mix of generation, but our efforts are frustrated by the UK Government's unwillingness to address Scottish issues properly.

"Clearly, on a wide range of issues we remain at the mercy of decisions taken in Westminster over which this Parliament and this Government has no control.

"This lack of power over key decisions on energy policy should concern all political parties in Scotland and should prompt some deeper reflection on the future of our energy system.

"There will be opportunities to review the landscape for energy policy post-May but our immediate priority, ideally supported by a show of unity across this chamber, must be to avert the premature closure of Longannet.''