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Thursday, 3 November 2016, 6 p.m., Edinburgh

Euan Mearns, Editor, Energy Matters

Sponsorship is provided by Scottish Oil Club (Students).

This event occurred on: Thursday, 03 November 2016, 6 p.m.

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Funding for student participation from member universities provided by Scottish Oil Club.


Since 2008, electrical power supply and distribution systems in Scotland and the UK have massively changed due mainly to political changes with the adoption of the 2008 Climate Change Act, without due regard to reliability, cost, safety, and the environment. Reliable and low-cost coal-powered plants are being replaced by intermittent facilities powered by wind and the sun. This presentation will outline the issue and start to address the key questions, as winter is now approaching, is the system robust? Will Scotland experience blackouts?

Once upon a time, not so long ago, our electrical power supply and distribution system was designed by professional engineers with system reliability, electricity cost, safety, and the environment in mind. But then, about 11 years ago all that changed. In the UK, with the adoption of the 2008 Climate Change Act the design of our electricity supply was handed over to politicians advised by experts from Green NGOs.

Since then our electricity system has been in a state of continuous change with the closure of coal-fired power generation in the UK and new “investments” in facilities powered by intermittent wind and solar photovoltaics. We have turned away from coal, one of the most reliable, secure and cheapest forms of electricity production. Combined cycle gas turbines augmented by nuclear power are the only power-making machines keeping the UK grid alive.

In Scotland, as winter now approaches we are about to find out how robust our brave new electricity system actually is. We still have about 2.2 GW of nuclear power and a hydro suite that rarely produces more than 1 GW against peak demand of roughly 5 GW leaving a 1.8 GW deficit. It is virtually guaranteed that this winter we will experience darkness at 6pm concident with flat calm conditions across the whole of Europe. The contingency plan is that Scotland will import electricity from England at such times, an ironic dependency on our neighbors south of the border. The key question: when Scotland calls will England have any power to deliver?


Dr Euan Mearns is a geologist with a PhD from the University of Aberdeen (UK) titled Isotopic Studies of Crustal Evolution in Western Norway that addressed issues of crust - mantle differentiation and the timing of high pressure metamorphic events. He worked for 8 years in Norway (1983-1991), first at the University of Oslo, where he continued the research begun in his PhD. This led to researching the isotope systematics of sedimentary systems draining west Norwegian terrains. He then moved to The Institute for Energy Technology where research into oil industry applications of isotope systems was deepened. In 1991 he returned to Aberdeen to establish an isotope geochemistry analysis and consulting company that grew to employ 12 staff and worked for 65 companies globally. In 2006 he began blogging on energy matters first at The Oil Drum and laterally on his own blog - Energy Matters. Since 2016 he has been engaged by KiteGen to assist in explaining their technology to the investor community.

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