RECENT announcements highlighted some progress being made in large-scale pumped storage power stations at Cruachan & Loch Ness. This has also been the case for two other large pumped storage projects that Scotland badly needs as we all move to net zero with the promise of a green revolution and plentiful jobs. Unfortunately the only progress is planning permission granted for three of the projects by the Scottish Government.

Planning permission is about as far as these projects will get under the current UK-wide energy market, which already penalises Scottish energy production and hinders any chance of these projects every getting built.

Although Scotland has a large over-production capacity of electricity, we need these large storage schemes for the short duration periods when the wind doesn’t blow and to help stabilise the grid as we close down older nuclear stations. We will need them and increasingly England will need them as well, as they increase their reliance on renewable sources.

READ MORE: £550m Loch Ness hydro scheme given go-ahead in push for net-zero Scotland

Currently there is only 4GW of long duration pumped storage available, mainly from Scotland & Wales. The National Grid reported in its “Future Energy Scenarios” last year that it expects 10GW of storage capacity would be needed by 2030, rising to about 40GW by 2050. The schemes mentioned above are a key requirement in meeting these targets.

A report in March this year, for Scottish Renewables, highlighted the difficulties in getting finance for these projects under the present market set-up.

Basically it comes down to how to finance these large infrastructure projects – like getting a mortgage to build a new house. They take five to eight years to build, and because they are for storing energy they are not in demand in the same way as wind farms are so they cannot create revenue to pay the mortgage every day under the present market set-up. That’s why they are not being built.

The UK Government published an Energy White Paper last year including a commitment to support pumped storage hydro but with no specifics that will actually help this to happen. I suspect they are rather distracted in trying to find ways to finance the next nuclear power station at Sizewell C in Suffolk, desperately needed as they have to shut seven of the eight current nuclear stations by 2030. Ministers are planning legislation for a new financing model called the “Regulated Asset Base”, so that private firms will not carry the risk – strange, as a cornerstone of Tory ideology is that those taking the greatest risks get the rewards.

In this new model, bill payers will take the risk and start contributing to the cost of the new plant before it is actually built. That’s all bill payers in the UK – even the ones in Scotland who will not benefit from it, as we already have over production of electricity that we transfer to England. This will be in addition to the increases in our bills when the new nuclear station at Hinkley Point C comes on stream.

So basically in Scotland we cannot build the pumped storage stations we need, with all the benefits to the Scottish economy, because the Westminster government will not force through the changes required to the market. At the same time they are working to make us pay for very expensive new nuclear stations we don’t need.

Scotland should be leading the world in renewables technology and building large infrastructure hydro projects to expand and strengthen our economy. We are prevented from doing so by legislation we cannot control. This is what happens when you allow another country with different priorities to make the rules. It’s ma baw...

Paul Malloy