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Scotland could have ‘free electricity’ if pricing rules change, says energy boss

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Scotland could have ‘free electricity’ if pricing rules change, says energy boss

Greg Jackson, the chief executive of Octopus Energy, was appearing on a panel about renewable energy at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change’s conference in London on Tuesday when he made the comments.

During the session, Jackson said that while so much focus is paid to new technologies, not enough is being paid to the markets which dictate how people consume energy.

READ MORE: Scottish Government given no detail on UK’s new ‘council of nations’

“Most of the policy focus starts at the supply side,” he said.

“We relentlessly talk about how we can create electricity or make burning stuff slightly less damaging.

“But fundamentally, when you change the technologies in any industry, you change how people can use it.

“We’re talking here about the plummeting costs of solar and wind.

“Our electricity system is designed around coal. It didn’t really matter when you used it.

“But if I say to people, if you use your electricity when it’s sunny it’ll be five times cheaper than fossil fuels, it’s amazing how much more people use at those times and how much less they use at others.”

Octopus Energy chief executive Greg Jackson (Image: Tony Blair Institute for Global Change)

He added that the UK was still operating within a “fundamentally broken market” and that Scottish consumers should be reaping the rewards of hosting so much renewable energy infrastructure.

“Every half hour the electricity price across the UK is the same,” he said.

“It’s the same whether you’re in Scotland and all the wind farms are turning or you’re in Slough and you’ve got so little electricity you can’t build data centres. This is crazy.

READ MORE: Ian Murray: Labour will look to build nuclear plants in Scotland

“What we need is a real reform of markets so that when it’s windy in Scotland we don’t pay the wind farms to turn off; we give Scottish people cheap or free electricity at those times.

“It’s absolutely outrageous that one-third of the time the interconnectors between the UK and other countries are flowing the wrong way.

“So, at the times when we’re turning off the wind farms in Scotland, we’re importing electricity from Norway into Scotland because we’ve got absolutely screwed pricing.”

It comes after Chancellor Rachel Reeves confirmed that the new Labour government would scrap the de-facto ban on onshore wind development in England.

Two policy planning tests have set a higher bar for local consent for onshore wind farms in England since 2015, essentially allowing communities to veto their construction.

Meanwhile, by 2030 it’s expected that around three-quarters of all the UK’s onshore wind capacity will be generated in Scotland.

 

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