UK storms highlight need to reprioritise energy investment

The sometimes destructive power of the wind has made the headlines a lot recently and this weekend it was the UK’s turn as the tail-end of hurricane Katia lashed the island nation. As the storm left UK shores on Monday, some newspapers reported a different kind of story – Scottish wind power farms produced so much electricity that they were disconnected from the grid. A total of 13 wind energy plants were turned off on Monday morning as winds reached 90mph overloading the national grid, the Scottish Herald said.

According to the paper, the UK’s National Grid said the wind farm plants were turned off to balance the system – the grid could not absorb all the power created by the wind turbines and so they were disconnected.

But the problem here is not an excess of wind power but rather the lack of infrastructure to transport the abundant power being produced. What Scotland (and the rest of Europe) needs is a European electricity grid – connecting up national grid systems, making European-wide trade and competition in electricity possible. At a time when there is too much wind for Scotland’s needs, an extended and better-interconnected grid would deliver power to where there is demand (and at cheaper prices than burning fossil fuels). This would make compensation paid to producers to turn off their turbines unnecessary.

Instead of focussing on compensation payments for a surplus of wind power electricity, we need to be thinking about the €355.15 billion spent on importing fossil fuels into the EU last year. Instead of giving our money to Russia and Libya to supply us with gas that we burn to generate electricity why not switch some of our spending to the renewable energies and the infrastructure needed to deliver clean power to consumers?

Julian Scola,