A MINISTER in the Scotland Office was left red-faced in the Commons after inadvertently showing he was “ignorant” of a renewables technology that is seen as key to a stable energy supply.

John Lamont, the Conservative MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, was responding to a question from SNP MP Philippa Whitford when he made the gaffe.

Whitford had raised the issue of pumped-storage hydro, a type of renewable energy that uses surplus created during times of high supply to fill in the gaps during times of low supply.

READ MORE: Scottish hydro power projects are doomed unless Westminster makes changes

The Central Ayrshire MP said: “Energy storage is vital to managing demand as we switch to green electricity, and pumped-storage hydro is the most efficient large-scale storage method.

“Scottish Renewables has called for UK capacity to be more than doubled by investment in six shovel-ready projects across Scotland.

“Why are this Government refusing to support investment in infrastructure that is critical to future energy security?”

In his response, Lamont appeared to inadvertently reveal that he had little understanding of pumped-storage hydro projects, which were being commissioned in the UK in the 1960s.

The Tory minister responded: “I simply do not accept the honourable lady’s analysis or conclusions.

“This Government are very much committed to the infrastructure investment that is needed to allow this new technology to evolve. However, the technology highlighted by the honourable lady presents an opportunity, and we will continue to work with the sector to deliver it.”

Whitford pointed out in the chamber that pumped-storage hydro is “hardly new technology”, adding: “It has been around since the ’60s and lasts a long time, but it needs time to get built.”

Lamont did not address the correction.

Speaking to The National, Whitford said he was not the first Scottish Tory MP and minister to show he was “ignorant” of hydro power’s potential.

The SNP MP pointed to a Scottish Parliament meeting at which Andrew Bowie, the UK Government’s Networks Minister within its Net Zero department, also seemed to think hydro was an emerging technology.

SNP MSP Ash Regan asked Bowie about a Scottish Government request for the UK to “provide appropriate market mechanisms for hydro power to ensure the full potential of this sector is realised” – essentially the same request as has been made by Scottish Renewables.

In his response, Bowie (below) said: "In answer to the first part of the question: yes, we absolutely do support it. Secondly, discussions are on-going right now between officials at the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and Treasury colleagues as to how best we can create a framework to deliver hydro technology to market.

The National: Andrew Bowie

“The discussions are at an early stage, and I do not foresee that any announcement will be made in the immediate future, but they are under way.

“Although it does not fall directly into my portfolio, it is in the wider conversation about the grid and the wider energy mix, and I am keen to see us move forward and support those nascent technologies.”

Fiona Hyslop, the former economy secretary, corrected Bowie, saying: “Welcome to the committee, minister. Hydro is obviously not a nascent issue.”

The Tory MP responded: “No, it is not nascent; it is decades old.”

Whitford commented: “It’s just the ignorance to think that pumped-storage hydro is new tech.

“If they’re that ignorant about it, then that’s part of the problem. And for that to be two Scottish MPs, Lamont and Bowie, not knowing about pumped-storage hydro is pretty ignorant.”

READ MORE: Six Scots renewables projects to deliver 15,000 jobs – if UK steps up, report says

As it stands, the UK has just four pumped-storage hydro facilities, which were all commissioned between 1963 and 1984.

There are six “shovel-ready” projects in Scotland which have the potential to more than double the UK’s pumped storage hydro capacity to 7.7GW and create almost 15,000 jobs, according to a report from BiGGAR Economics.

Scottish Renewables, which commissioned the report, said it is calling on the UK Government to “urgently deliver the measures it has promised to enable investment in large-scale, long-duration energy storage so developers can deliver the existing pipeline of ‘shovel ready’ pumped-storage hydro projects”.

In a simple example of pumped-storage hydro, two reservoirs at varying elevations would be used to store power. If wind farms are delivering high levels of energy at one moment, the surplus is used to pump water up to the higher reservoir.

Later, if the wind is not blowing, then the water is released to flow back to the lower reservoir, turning a turbine as it goes to produce power and plug any gaps in the renewable system.

Such projects are seen as essential to a stable renewable energy network as they can help compensate for the variable output from sources such as solar and offshore wind.