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Scotland's clean energy revolution

Posted by Alison Vickers on 9 May 2018 at 9:24 am

The Climate Change Act (2008) mandates carbon emission cuts of 80% (from 1990 baseline) across the UK by 2050. However, our current progress calls into question whether the UK will achieve this goal. We also have an additional EU target of producing 15% of total energy from renewables by 2020. However based on the National Grid’s extrapolation, the UK will miss the target with a delay of up to nine years. With the UK’s ongoing talks to withdraw from the EU it is unclear whether the same target  will apply post-Brexit.

Although the Government claims to be committed to The Climate Change Act, many argue that their rhetoric is incompatible with their current policies. On 1 April 2016 the Government ended subsidies for onshore windfarms and the early closure of the Renewable Obligation subsidy has hit solar installations as well as biomass fuel stations (which were to be converted from fossil fuelled-power stations. More astonishingly, The Green Alliance has found that investment in wind, solar, biomass power and waste-to-energy projects will decline by 95% between 2017 and 2020.

So where do we go from here? Luckily inspiration can be found close to home in Scotland, where devolved powers are giving an opportunity for progress to be made at a much faster rate than the rest of the UK. In 2017, Scotland created 68.1% of its electricity via renewable energy, making it a world leader in sourcing electricity from renewables. This was an increase of 26% on the year before, and with many projects still awaiting completion, it’s fair to say that the future is looking bright for Scotland.

Since 2008, Scotland’s renewable energy capacity has grown steadily and now sits at over 10GW. Two thirds of this installed capacity comes from onshore wind power. Scotland has a high level of public support for wind farms with 78% of people supporting wind farms and 52% disagreed with the statement that wind developments are ‘ugly and a blot on the landscape’. This is helped by the government’s positioning of renewable energy being used to revitalise the Scottish economy and producing jobs.

Scottish opposition to the UK Government’s decision to end subsidies to onshore windfarms led to the Scottish Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing, claiming that ‘with 71% support [at the time] for onshore wind in Scotland and support for the Conservatives at 13%, green energy is five times more popular than blue politicians’.

Other big contributors to Scotland’s renewable energy surge are hydro power, which powered almost a quarter of renewable energy output alongside other forms of green energy, such as biomass. These have enormous potential for growth in the coming years. Indeed on 3rd April 2018, the GFG Alliance (an international group of businesses, founded and owned by the British Gupta Family) acquired one of the UK’s leading hydro-power developers - Green Highland Renewables, and announced that it will invest nearly £60 million in Scotland, in the next two years, to boost its hydro-power capacity. This will involve building or upgrading 12 hydro schemes in the Highlands.

So the future is looking bright for renewable energy north of the border. Scotland appears to have both Government and public support for green energy. We can only hope that this investment pays off with greater energy security and greater prosperity for Scotland in terms of jobs and energy bills. Maybe then the rest of the UK will see what a positive impact this can have and policies will come into line.




Image credit: Peter Gasston


About the author: Alison joined The National Energy Foundation in 2017 as a Households and Communities Project Officer. With a BA in English and Politics and an MA in Environmental Politics from Keele University, Alison plays a key role in the delivery of the Better Housing Better Health service andGawcott Solar - two charitable projects coordinated by The Foundation. 

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2 comments - read them below or add one


stephenpattersonComment left on: 9 November 2018 at 1:33 am

100% renewable electricity, not energy. The actual target is for 30% of total energy usage to come from renewable sources by 2020. We're relatively cold and spread out so heating and transport make up a lot of the total usage. They are harder to make renewable.

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Mary95Comment left on: 10 May 2018 at 1:28 pm

Scotland is extremely lucky geographically to have both strong winds and strong currents, this makes harvesting renewable energy so much more cost effective. 

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