Looking ahead to 2020, our analysis shows that Scotland could surpass the 40% renewable electricity target, and could easily provide over half of its electricity from renewable sources.

Scotland - UK Green Revolution

Grant Thoms

Scotland at the Vanguard of UK Green
Looking ahead to 2020, our analysis shows that Scotland could surpass the 40% renewable electricity target, and could easily provide over half of its electricity from renewable sources.
Grant Thoms, Scottish Renewables Forum

In a land of 5 million people. The northern attachment of the British Isles. Famed for whisky, golf and Braveheart. The fact that Scotland has Europe's largest natural resources in wind, wave and tidal power has often been overlooked. Whether or not people are familiar with the mechanical and engineering challenges required to harness the elements, they understand one simple truth: that Scotland has a plenty of weather, most of it wind and rain! Who would have thought rain and wind would give a country competitive advantage?

But whether it is using the rain that falls to power our hydro stations, using the wind that blows across our land and seas to power wind or wave turbines, using the power of the sun to grow trees and other crops for energy, or harnessing the power of the tides that course around our coastline, we have an unrivalled resource and should be doing more to release this potential.

Several studies have tried to measure to one degree or another, the resources that are on our doorstep. However, few up until now have come close to projecting what harnessing this resource could do for our country: securing an affordable, clean supply of energy, with home-grown jobs and making a huge impact in tackling climate change.

In June, Scotland's leading green energy trade body, Scottish Renewables, published the results of an insightful study - Delivering the New Generation of Energy: Route Map to Scotland's Renewable Future. The Route Map proves that the UK Government and the Scottish Executive were right to back renewables, because renewables can be developed quickly to tackle carbon emissions and to help fill a future energy gap.

The UK's largest wind farm was opened this year and the largest in Europe has just started construction, both just south of Glasgow and showing that all regions in Scotland are embracing the wind revolution (permission courtesy of ScottishPower)

Scottish Renewables has found that the Scottish Executive's - the devolved government within the UK covering Scotland - green electricity target to generate 18% of electricity by 2010, is going to be met 3 years early in 2007. More revealing is the fact that by the end of 2010, a third of Scotland's electricity will likely be met from renewables. It's not often a government is able to hail a target being met on time, never mind early!

The fact that this could be done using existing policies and with conservative assumptions about planning success rates and development of new infrastructure demonstrates that Scotland has successfully brought together political will and industrial know-how to develop a new sector and hit a government target in record time. It also means that we no longer need to see existing policy as ambitious and stretching but instead as realistic and based on fact.

The first commercial wave farm has been exported to Portugal by Edinburgh-based Ocean Power Delivery, their Pelamis wave machine is at the cutting edge of marine generation (permission courtesy of Ocean Power Delivery)

Looking further ahead to 2020, our analysis shows that Scotland could surpass the 40% renewable electricity target, and could easily provide over half of its electricity from renewable sources. Importantly we expect to see bioenergy, offshore wind, tidal-stream and wave energy making strong contributions to our future electricity needs.

Longer term projections are obviously hazier, but looking ahead to 2050 we have been able to highlight the role of renewables in meeting carbon cuts. But this will be only for electricity. Heat and transport are larger energy needs, so we must also look to what renewables can contribute here. The establishment of the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation should see delivery of 5% renewable transport fuel by 2010, and we highlight that 10% of our transport fuels could be coming from renewables by 2020.

Our research also highlights the elephant in the room which is our energy use in heating. Heating needs account for over half of our energy use in Scotland, but little has been done to support the development of renewable heat fuels. However, our assessment of what resource is available highlights the fact that by 2020 over 10% of our heating needs could come from renewable and microgeneration sources.

This set of strong positive projections for renewables is good news for Scotland. Our research demonstrates that renewables can deliver, providing that policy remains stable. Moving forward all that will be needed is a gradual evolution of support, to bring in new technologies and markets.

And it will be this overall evolution that is important. Up to 2010 our research shows that hydro and onshore wind will make the largest contributions, but by then we will be seeing the first signs of development in offshore wind, bioenergy and marine. Between 2010 and 2020 we expect these technologies to come to the fore, and make an important contribution to electricity needs, and so push the renewables contribution beyond 50% of electricity generation in Scotland. Between 2010 and 2020 renewables will also be contributing more to heat and transport needs. Beyond 2020, microgeneration and distributed networks will become the norm, and a hydrogen economy should start to emerge.

And if all this happens, Scotland will be on track to make significant carbon cuts and deliver the 60% CO2 reductions needed for 2050, while minimising any future energy gap.

Government policy has effectively got the renewables sector on its way: to see us reach our final destination, we will need careful evolution of this policy, rather than a sudden u-turn, so that the emerging technologies can play their part and so that we can also begin to cut our emissions from heating and transport use. Scotland though can be confident of having the means to assist the UK to reach this low carbon future in a fit and healthy state.

Renewable Devices Ltd, based outside Edinburgh, have captured some big customers with their SWIFT rooftop wind turbines (permission courtesy of Renewable Devices)

The executives of Tesco, Vodafone, and Shell have come to realise what many of us have long understood: not only will this low carbon approach to sustainable energy policy give us the moral high ground, we will actually build competitive advantage. We are already giving Scotland competitive advantage within the UK, imagine the possibilities for the UK in a global marketplace.

And just this week, the UK Government has published their conclusions to their 2006 Energy Review. Energy efficiency and renewables got a big thumbs up with particular focus on getting the planning regimes right for ramping up onshore and offshore development over the next 15 years.

Delivering the New Generation of Energy: Route Map To Scotland's Renewable Future is available online at www.ScottishRenewables.com 

UK Energy Review report is available for download at: http://www.dti.gov.uk/energy/review/index.html 

 

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