8% of the population but 20% of the electricity production: How Scotland subsidises Britain’s green power ‘achievement’


There’s no mention of electricity transfers from Scotland to rUK in this Guardian report on a ‘landmark’ achievement by Britain, yesterday, but the scale of those is massive and increasing as Scotland generates more and more electricity from renewables. We heard:

‘Greg Clark, the business secretary, hailed the achievement. He said the UK is “on a path to become the first major economy to legislate for net-zero emissions” in the wake of the report.


In 2018, total UK electricity demand was broadly stable … at 301 TWh. Scotland’s share is around 37TWh leaving the rUK figure at 263TWh.


However, a significant part of that demand was met from the transfer of electricity from Scotland to the rest of the UK. See this:



In 2018, 24.7 TWh were transferred from Scotland to England (& Wales) and 1.3 TWh were transferred to N Ireland. This means that 10% of rUK electricity consumption is met by transfers from Scotland. The scale of these transfers is increasing fast, near doubling in one year, so we can assume an even greater contribution in 2019 and beyond.



12 thoughts on “8% of the population but 20% of the electricity production: How Scotland subsidises Britain’s green power ‘achievement’

  1. gavin May 9, 2019 / 6:31 am

    But hey, our English neighbours would live in caves with candle power just so Scots would be forced to pay for all the turbine subsidies—after independence.
    That is, if you believe the propaganda.
    The truth is, Scotland exports high value goods and commodities south—-gas, oil, electricity, prime food and drink etc—-all of which could readily find new markets, if trade barriers were imposed ( see indy threat No19 ). But it wont come to that. English people are nicer and smarter than their politicians.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Bugger (the Panda) May 9, 2019 / 6:55 am

    The pay in charges to use the Nat Grid from Scotland ammounts to 50% of their revenues.

    Further from London the more they charge.

    Hinkly Point Nuclear Station Road receives a pay in subsidy, as will new HP2.


    No idea about the French interconnector and if the French have to pay as we do.

    Probably not


  3. Iain Wright May 9, 2019 / 7:04 am

    For accuracy, you do need to subtract transfers into Scotland and use net transfer figures. Doesn’t change your argument, though. Another consequence of these power flows is the need for vast expenditure on transmission wires to collect this power in the north and deliver it to where it’s used.


    • johnrobertson834 May 9, 2019 / 12:32 pm

      Thanks, felt sure I’d been a bit rough and ready with the figures but good to hear you think the gist was ok.


    • William Henderson May 9, 2019 / 5:06 pm

      Yes, Iain, but the choice of projects of “vast expenditure” seems to consist of options.

      How does the cost of an interconnector compare with, say, two aircraft carriers without any $100 million (each) aircraft, or a new set of Trident missiles, not to mention the running of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya? Choices, choices! – determined in sumptuous rooms in a far-away metropolis.


  4. William Henderson May 9, 2019 / 8:32 am

    Makes me realise that from a Westminster point of view the matter of Scottish independence is shaping up as a battle for survival.

    Buckle up for a rough ride.


    • Alasdair Macdonald May 9, 2019 / 8:44 am

      You are spot on, William Henderson. Energy supplies and the associated revenues is one of the main reasons why Westminster is so determined that Scotland will remain in the union. This is not only oil and gas – and a big field came on stream recently- but also renewables – Scotland has 25% of EUROPE’S (all of Europe) renewables potential. It is this which underpins sterling.


  5. Colin Brown May 9, 2019 / 9:25 am

    Beware of that online publication of inter-UK energy transfers going offline … technical issues, figures not available etc.


  6. Andy Anderson May 9, 2019 / 11:02 am

    I am giving talks just now on the U.K. and Scottish economy and I can see billions of increased GDP adding to Scotland over the last couple of years. I knew some of that was electricity. Thanks for quantifying this for me John


  7. Ludo Thierry May 9, 2019 / 4:53 pm

    Hi Andy – just mentioning an excellent blog piece on Scottish exports by Dr. Craig Dalzell of TheCommonGreen where he identifies 2017 export figures for utilities of £5 billion and that much of this will be electricity exports – Link and snippet below:


    The UK is, of course, a very important customer in other respects. Wholesale and retail food, Agricultural products and utilities like electricity, water and gas rank highly in terms of Scottish exports to the rest of the UK. This should be considered very carefully by those who threaten, hint or suggest that these industries may be under threat should Scotland become independent as these are products that the rest of the UK is particularly reliant on. Scotland exported £5 billion worth of utilities to rUK in 2017 – much of which will have been electricity. It is difficult to see where rUK would go to replace this trade should it decide to be difficult in independence negotiations as the current electrical interconnectors to Ireland and Europe are already running more or less at capacity. Threat to food supplies are worrying enough in the context of Brexit without compounding this with misguided and mildly jingoistic statements levelled at Scotland’s trade.


  8. GentlemansFamilyFinances June 14, 2019 / 9:04 am

    Scotland has much greater wind resources than England/rUK. If you think of it another way, instead of by population you consider by land area – Scotland is punching below its weight in terms of electricity output.
    The huge offshore wind projects that will come on stream in a few years will lead to a significant increase in electricity production but there’s still a lot of potential – either from onshore wind, offshore wind, tidal, AD, waste to energy (and even solar).
    Scotland’s electricity production is still greener than the UK as a whole but we can still do better!


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