For Whom does the Wind Blow?

67m wind turbine located in Hatston, Kirkwall, seen from an unusual vantage point.
A 67m wind turbine located in Hatston, Kirkwall.

Orkney is a windy place and can generate more power than it needs from its many wind turbines. Unfortunately the energy distribution network is not set up to take advantage of this. There is currently no easy way to export surplus electricity, and the price tariffs energy suppliers impose on consumers penalise people living in rural areas. Renewable energy has changed the way power is generated and distributed, but this is not taken into consideration.

Despite an over-abundance of renewable energy, Orcadians pay some of the highest energy prices in the UK, and Orkney suffers from the highest rate of fuel poverty in Scotland. The Scottish Government does not have control of energy policy – that is reserved to Westminster.

Incumbent MP for Orkney & Shetland, Alistair Carmichael, did not manage to solve this problem, even whilst a cabinet minister in the Tory/Lib-Dem coalition government of David Cameron.

Cameron famously dismissed renewable energy as “green crap“, and this may be some indication of how much the average English Tory cares about the problems of rural Scotland. However, the fact is a small number of land-owners have made a lot of money from it.

Vestas V52 850kW wind turbine located in Burray, with a pink sky.
Vestas V52 850kW wind turbine located in Burray, Orkney.

In the summing up of his 2015 trial for lying to his constituents about his role in a smear campaign against the First Minister of Scotland, Alistair Carmichael was described by the judges as a “blatant liar” who was “at best disingenuous, at worst evasive and self-serving”. He narrowly avoided charges with the defense that a personal lie is different from a political lie, thereby proving in an electoral court that lying is an acceptable part of a politicians job (!)

What a fantastic precedent that turned out to be.

A turbine and gorse blowing in the perpetual Orkney wind.
Another windy day in Orkney.

These pictures accompany an article by Fiona Grahame for The Orkney News entitled Affordable Energy? Mind the Gap. This article was first published in iScot magazine and can now be read online.

For Whom does the Wind Blow, energy policy being reserved to Westminster? Cartoon depicting Alistair Carmichael MP blowing a paper wind turbine. Pen, ink & gouache, 2019.
For Whom does the Wind Blow? Pen, ink & gouache, 2019.