Thursday, January 07, 2010

Mega-pylons will destroy landscape in name of profit

The Scottish Nationalist government in Edinburgh has given the go-ahead for an upgrade of an existing power line that runs 137 miles from Beauly, near Inverness to Denny, near Stirling, despite massive local objections.

Two major energy companies, Scottish & Southern Energy and Scottish Power, can now go ahead and build 600 pylons, up to 217ft tall, through spectacular wilderness, including the Cairngorms National Park.

The plan is to increase the transmission capacity of the lines from 132,000 volts to 400,000-volts, to bring power from new onshore and offshore wind farms in the north of Scotland into the national grid.

This is only phase one – phase two will come when the power companies apply to link the line from Denny to Newcastle; the plan is to make Scotland Europe’s major producer of renewable energy.

Cash from the weather – a dream come true for a country that has little of the former and lots of the latter, you might think. But where are the benefits for ordinary Scots? Maybe some temporary jobs. That’s it.

Those opposing the scheme include every single local authority the line passes through, the Cairngorm National Park Authority, and 18,000 individual objectors as well as conservation organisations. They are all accused of “NIMBY-ism”, including by environmental campaigners who should know better.

To present this as a green project is a big lie – only the most recent in the whole “green new deal” fraud.

This is a money-making venture, by two transnational energy corporations – Scottish Power is a subsidiary of Iberdrola, one of the world’s largest energy companies; Scottish & Southern operates across the UK and Ireland.

it gives them an opportunity to offset carbon emissions from other forms of power generation whilst cashing in on subsidised green energy. If the subsidies end, and the profits fall, the power line will become a white elephant.

The real reason for the scheme was clarified by Willie Roe, chairman of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, who said the power line paved the way for the region to capitalise on its place as the renewable-energy "engine room" of Europe.

And Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said the go-ahead was “precisely the kind of positive action the government must take to create the right environment for business to flourish”.

As Helen McDade, head of policy at conservation charity the John Muir Trust, said: "Marching a mega-pylon line through some of our most world-renowned landscapes may be the most lucrative option for the energy industry but it is the wrong choice for Scotland."

The right choices would be:
• A subsidised crash programme to super insulate every home in Scotland, including triple-glazed windows standard in Scandinavia. Around 850,00 Scottish households live in fuel poverty.
• Taking energy generation into public ownership, with democratic control, enabling planning and investment for need, not profit. Would such a power line scheme be part of a not-for-profit energy plan? Very unlikely!
• Investing in local and small regional power generation strategies – long grids are wasteful of energy and expensive to build and maintain.

As the pioneering 19th century conservationist John Muir said: “The gross heathenism of civilization has generally destroyed nature, and poetry, and all that is spiritual.” And he also remarked: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

Penny Cole
Environment editor

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