Blight: at what price?

The Compact Oxford English Dictionary defines blight as “a thing that spoils or damages something” and I can’t help feeling that this is exactly what Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN) wants to do to the beautiful Galloway scenery with their proposal to install a 400kV ‘supergrid’ overhead network throughout the region.

So by definition they wish to blight the region we, who live here and all the tourists that visit our region, love so much.  And what for?  Well, we appreciate the existing infrastructure is old and needs to be replaced with modern equivalents but that does not mean it needs to be massively upgraded.  The upgrading of course is needed and has been designed to transfer an estimated 2600MW from all the envisaged on-shore wind power that requires a connection to the grid network.

But in practice, with the recent announcement from DECC which removes any further public subsidy for on-shore wind, the amount of generation requiring connection will fall to about 1000MW and this should cause SPEN to re-think their plans.  However, the bigger question is, to what extend do SPEN take into account “blight?”

They clearly don’t, although they claim to do.  They cite Schedule 9 of the Electricity Act, “have regard to natural beauty …” as a guide to their actions but then they insist on overhead lines as the most cost effective option, and yet the two are simply not compatible.

What they fail to realise is this.  We, the people of Dumfries & Galloway have to bear the adverse effects of this project.  In economics these are called externalities and because they cause blight – i.e. they are bad for us, they are known as negative externalities.  Because we don’t benefit from this project we have to pay these external cost, SPEN don’t!

What are these cost then? Well there is the loss of visual amenity, the devaluation of our homes, loss of land use, fall in tourism, the effect on our health and wellbeing, and the consequent extra demands on the health service – the list goes on and on.

If SPEN had to take all these negative externalities into account overhead lines may not look so attractive!

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