Scottish Government publishes Electricity Generation Policy Statement

This week the Scottish Government launched the latest draft of its Electricity Generation Policy Statement which aims to outline how the ambitious 100% renewable energy target for 2020 will be achieved. The document contains a large amount of information including a projected breakdown of Scotland’s future energy mix, outlined aims for the countries energy network in 2020, carbon reduction targets, energy efficiency measures, planned grid connections with other countries, and the expected economic benefits in terms of investment levels and job creation. The complete document can be found here. Scottish Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing stated:

“This report shows that the Scottish Government’s target to generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of our electricity needs from renewables, as well as more from other sources, is achievable.

“We know there is doubt and scepticism about our 100 per cent renewables target, and the financial and engineering challenges required to meet it.

“But we will meet these challenges. I want to debate, engage and co-operate with every knowledgeable, interested and concerned party to ensure we achieve our goals.

“We know our target is technically achievable. Scotland already leads the world in renewable energy, and we have the natural resources and the expertise to achieve so much more.

“The prize at stake for the people of Scotland is huge, in terms of jobs, economic opportunities and lower electricity bills for all.”

The Electricity Generation Policy Statement initially outlines what the government hopes to achieve, long term, with the countries energy network.

It states that Scotland’s generation mix should deliver; a secure electricity supply, at an affordable cost to consumers, which can achieve large scale de-carbonisation by 2030, and brings the greatest possible economic benefit to Scotland.

A number of individual targets have been set with these aims in mind. For example, total Scottish energy consumption should be lowered by 12% by 2020. Energy efficiency is internationally regarded as one of the most affordable ways in which energy demand and carbon emissions can be reduced and controlled. Steps are already being taken to meet this target; there was a 7.4% drop in year on year energy demand from 2008 to 2009.

No new nuclear power plants are to be constructed in Scotland although extending the lifespan of the countries two existing nuclear plants for  a further 5 years is being considered. Such a move would serve to ease the transition to a grid more heavily reliant upon renewables.

Carbon Capture and Storage technology is expected to play an important role. Allowing baseload power to be maintained whilst still reducing carbon emissions. A minimum of 2.5 GW of thermal generation fitted with CCS technology is expected to be operational by 2020. CCS technology, if successfully demonstrated at commercial scale, could create up to 5,000 jobs and be worth £3.5 billion to the Scottish economy.

14-16 Gigawatts of renewable capacity will be required to achieve the 100% renewable target by 2020. Currently there are 12 Gigawatts of renewable capacity in various stages of planning, development and deployment. This figure includes 3 Gigawatts of mainly onshore wind projects currently consented or in construction. Whilst it should be remembered that not all of the 12 Gigawatts worth of projects will make it to construction it demonstrates the interest the Scottish renewables sector is already attracting from investors.

To achieve the 2020 target installed renewable generation capacity will have to almost double over the next ten years.Wind (both onshore and offshore) will play a major part in this expansion. 13 Gigawatts of wind energy is expected to be installed by 2020. This will mean that wind power will be providing around 55% of Scotland’s electricity output by this time. The Policy Statement identifies this target as a “major challenge” but argues that it is “consistent” with the projections made in a variety of different reports. Given Scotland’s huge potential for wind energy, strong backing from both the UK and Scottish Goverment’s, and the falling costs of both onshore and offshore wind it seems an achievable, if ambitious, target.

The Scottish Government has outlined a number of economic benefits that a strong and committed drive for increased renewable generation can bring. Firstly, it will serve to insulate consumers from the rising international prices of fossil fuels. The Policy Statement states that from 2013 increased renewable energy capacity will begin to halt the ever increasing cost to consumers from their energy bills.

Secondly, over the next ten years the renewable energy industry alone could be providing up to 40,000 jobs and £30 billion worth of investments into the Scottish economy. This is not including the economic benefits of CCS and increased usage of energy storage technologies. Additionally, the Scottish Government has targeted that 500MW should be owned by local communities by 2020. This level of communal ownership would see up £2.4 billion in Feed in-Tariff revenues over the next 20 years being held by local communities.

Thirdly, the necessary investment in and upgrading of Scotland’s electricity grid would pump £7 billion into the country’s economy and create 1,500 new jobs. The benefits of such investment are already being seen with both ScottishPower and Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) announcing the creation of new training and apprenticeship schemes.

Reactions to the publication of the Electricity Generation Policy Statement have been largely positive.

Ian Marchant, Chief Executive of SSE commented:

“SSE welcomes the Scottish Government’s electricity generation policy statement. With energy supply now a global issue, it is vital that the policy objectives adopted at Scottish, UK and EU level are consistent. With its focus on energy security, affordability and de-carbonisation, this policy statement underlines the extent to which policy objectives are consistent, and it is very encouraging that this should be the case.”

Keith Anderson, ScottishPower’s Chief Corporate Officer and CEO of ScottishPower Renewables remarked:

“ScottishPower supports the commitment to increase low carbon electricity generation in Scotland and we welcome the clarity outlined in the Scottish Government’s policy statement. We are making significant investments in large scale renewable energy projects including new wind, wave and tidal power. This investment is critical in order to help Scotland achieve its renewable energy targets and will be a catalyst for economic growth and job creation.”

Alison Kay, Commercial Director for National Grid observed:

“Scotland already has the highest proportion of clean power generation across Great Britain, which plays a vital role in keeping the lights on and meeting demand. The future energy mix is uncertain and this statement sets out a clear vision for the future of energy in Scotland. It will further enable National Grid and other industry participants to effectively plan the networks of the future.”

The 2020 target is described in the Policy Statement as “both a statement of intent and a rallying call”. It has been demonstrated to be both feasible and achievable, with wind energy playing a massive part. It is hoped that the outlining of a long term plan to help achieve the 100% aim will provide investors with confidence.

 

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