Unreliable renewables may provide lifeline for Longannet

Longannet power station in Fife may get a stay of executiion as part of a deal to provide a back-up to Scotland’s electricity supply.

Scottish Power revealed last month that it may close the coal-fired power station in Fife early because it costs to much to connect to the National Grid.

This would cost hundreds of jobs and be a devastating blow to the Fife economy.

But the National Grid is now in discussions with Scottish Power about Longannet providing voltage support.

Peterhead power station, operated by Perth-based Scottish and Southern Energy, may also be asked to provide back up.

A spokesman for National Grid said this back-up would maintain system stability by ensuring a consistent voltage.

The company carried out 140 studies which found that there is a one in 600-year chance that, if there was no wind output and Longannet and Peterhead had closed then electricity supplies could be affected.

The National Grid’s director of Transmission Services Mike Calviou issued an open letter which stated: “To ensure that we can maintain system stability, in even the most extreme circumstances, we are in discussions with thermal generators in Scotland to procure some additional voltage control support, from April 2016.

“A final decision, outlining our plans, will be announced by the end of March 2015.”

The extra voltage will be needed until the Western Link, which will connecting Scotland and England, is completed,

A Scottish Power spokesman said: “We are engaged in this commercial process. All discussions relating to this are confidential until National Grid make their final decision”.

The National Grid also defended the network transmission costs, which Scottish Power say is the reason for considering closing Longannet early.

A spokesman said: “It is true that while there is an excess of generation in Scotland, compared to local demand, then generators in Scotland pay more in transmission charges than those in England and Wales. However, it is also true that, for the same reasons, consumers in Scotland pay less given the relatively short distances the electricity has to travel.

Conservative Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Murdo Fraser has said a replacement gas burning power plant should be built in west Fife to replace Longannet if it does close.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has blamed coalition government energy policies for the threat to Longannet.