May I start by thanking Amanda Milling for securing this timely debate? Indeed, for Scotland it could hardly be timelier, given last month’s closure of Longannet power station in Fife. That closure ended coal-fired electricity production in Scotland completely. Longannet is a landmark that is highly visible from many parts of my constituency on the other side of the River Forth. It directly employed 236 people and supported another 1,000 jobs within the supply chain. The plant was Scotland’s largest power station, capable of producing 2,400 MW of electricity for the grid, accounting for about 15% of the country’s electricity capacity. Its premature closure will inevitably leave an energy capacity gap in Scotland during peak demand, and that gap now needs to be filled.
Decommissioning will continue until December, and ScottishPower’s plans for the site are expected to be known by the end of the year. Can the Minister provide some clarity on the support and fiscal incentives that can be provided to stimulate investment in the conversion of former coal-fired power plants?
Despite the UK Government’s commitment to ending coal power by 2025, they have failed to produce the financial backing and subsidies necessary to ensure that the UK energy market undergoes a productive transition towards viable alternatives. Energy firm Carlton Power was awarded a subsidy contract by DECC to build a new 1.9 GW plant at Trafford in Greater Manchester, but it was unable to meet its start date as a result of a failure to secure financial backers. The company pinned its failure on a combination of long-term policy decisions that skewed the market and uncertainty caused by recent cuts to wind and solar subsidies.
The Government’s decision to slash the fiscal infrastructure surrounding carbon capture and storage has failed to facilitate the UK’s coal industry. A report by the Energy and Climate Change Committee earlier this year warned that the opportunity to develop CCS infrastructure in the UK by the early 2020s is likely to have been missed.
In conclusion, I echo the comments of Fergus Ewing, Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism at the Scottish Parliament. He pointed out that, with the closure of Longannet, the margin of spare capacity will get even tighter, but the Tories have put the brakes on the development of replacement capacity in Scotland; onshore and offshore wind power; and the carbon capture and storage project that would have resulted in increased low-carbon thermal generation at Peterhead. As Fergus Ewing said,
“They need an urgent rethink of their failing energy policy.”