Good News for Scottish Renewables Industry

There was much good news for the Scottish Renewables Industry this week; not only was it revealed that Scotland’s interim renewable energy generation target has been surpassed but also a report was published which revealed the impact the fledgling industry is having on the country’s employment levels.

The Scottish Government had set a target for 31% of the country’s electric energy demand to be met by renewables by this year; currently renewables are providing 35% of the electricity used in the country. The 35% figure has been achieved by an increase in installed capacity in a variety of renewable technologies. For instance, in 2011 there was 7049 GWh (Giga-watt hours) of electricity produced from wind turbines. This was an increase of 45% from 2010 and more than double the amount generated from wind in 2007.

Hydro-electricity also saw it’s best ever year for electricity generation; producing 5310 GWh of energy. This was an increase of 62.6% from 2010 although it should be noted that 2010 was a year of comparatively low rain fall. However it was still an increase of 8.9% compared to 2009 levels; 2009 was hydro-electricity’s previous best year.

The news that the interim generation target had been surpassed was greeted with much enthusiasm. Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing remarked:

“It’s official – 2011 was a record breaker, with enough green electricity being produced in Scotland to comfortably beat our interim target. And Scotland met almost 40% of the UK’s renewable output in 2011, demonstrating how much the rest of the UK needs our energy. We are seeing great progress towards our goal of generating the equivalent of 100% of Scotland’s electricity needs from renewables by 2020.

“Projects representing £750 million of investment were switched on in 2011, with an investment pipeline of £46 billion. And since the turn of the year, we have seen Gamesa invest in Leith creating over 800 new jobs, the Green Investment Bank being head-quartered in Edinburgh and Samsung Heavy Industries announcing it will base its £100 million European offshore wind project in Methil, creating up to 500 jobs.

“Alongside securing those major developments, we have taken real steps to ensure that communities all over Scotland will benefit from the renewable energy generated in their area.

“Scotland is a genuine world leader in green energy and our targets reflect the scale of our natural resources, the strength of our energy capabilities and the value we place on creating new, sustainable industries.”

Niall Stuart, chief executive of Scottish Renewables:

“This is a fantastic achievement for our industry and for Scotland.

“When the interim target of 31 per cent was set it was seen as ambitious but yet again the renewables sector in Scotland has grown further and faster than predicted, achieving 35 per cent, and that’s why we are confident we can meet the 2020 target.

“These figures are further proof that this industry is a major part of our energy sector. As well as supporting 11,000 jobs in Scotland and helping attract massive investment, renewable energy is now delivering more than a third of the electricity consumed by Scottish households and businesses.

“Renewables is now a major part of our energy mix and a major part of our economy, and the sector is making a key contribution to the fight on climate change. Last year the sector displaced over 5 million tonnes of CO2 – around 10 per cent of Scotland’s total carbon emissions.

“There are many challenges ahead if we are to keep growing. Government must continue to focus on delivering grid connections, getting the right balance in the planning system, and supporting investment in clean energy. By doing so we will make further progress in cutting emissions and securing more jobs for the future.

Stan Blackley, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland: “Our research has shown that, with some modest investment in energy efficiency  and demand reduction, Scotland could produce 130% of its electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020 and 180% by 2030. In doing so we could ensure a reliable supply of clean electricity and phase out Scotland’s thermal power stations.”

In other news, Scottish Renewables released a report detailing the number of jobs that the Scottish Renewables industry is currently supporting.

In total there are around 11,000 people in Scotland employed in jobs supporting the renewables industry. The majority of these jobs are in the direct supply chain; 8701 to be exact. 1526 people are directly employed in renewable energy development and a further 909 people are employed in academia and the wider public sector. When broken down by sector onshore wind is the largest employer with 2235 employees; 943 are employed in offshore wind, and 1410 are employed in bioenergy. A further 3223 are employed in the National Grid and it’s supply chain.

Niall Stuart, chief executive of Scottish Renewables issued the following statement to accompany the report:

“The report shows that renewables are not only a major part of our energy mix, they are now a major part of our economy and our daily working lives, supporting more than 11,000 jobs across Scotland.

“The report also highlights that for every job in renewable energy development, there are around six more in the direct supply chain.

“These numbers are actually just the tip of the iceberg, with many thousands more employees supported indirectly by the growth of the renewables sector which have not been captured by this study.

“Renewable energy development is bringing in much needed investment to the wider economy, which is providing opportunities for businesses and people from a wide range of sectors; whether it be electricians, tradesmen and skippers of work boats, or lawyers, consultants, civil engineers and architects.

“These jobs are spread throughout the country, in both urban and rural areas: Glasgow, Fife and Edinburgh are already established as important centres for offshore wind development; Aberdeen is a major centre for offshore engineering; the Highlands and Islands are leading the development of the emerging wave and tidal sector; and bioenergy is providing jobs across rural Scotland from Lochaber to Morayshire to Dumfries and Galloway.

“A clear pattern emerges from speaking to employers that these numbers are expected to grow over the year ahead and beyond, as the relatively new industry continues to expand. Gamesa’s decision last week to come to Leith reinforces the scale of this opportunity.

“As a growth sector, it also offers new opportunities for the existing workforce and business base in parts of the economy which have been hit by the downturn.

“With continued political support, the right market framework, the right balance in the planning system, and investment in grid and ports and harbour infrastucture, we will ensure the creation of many thousands more jobs in this exciting sector.”

The announcements made this week demonstrate the great strides being made by the Scottish Renewables industry in terms of attracting investment, creating jobs and generating ever greater amounts of electricity.

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