This week the Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond appeared at the RenewableUK conference in Glasgow. The First Minister announced that a new interim renewable generation target of 50% of Scotland’s electricity demand has been set for 2015. This new target was set based upon the fact that the interim target for 2011 was exceeded; 35% of demand from renewables as opposed to the target 31%. Additionally a new target for greenhouse gas emission reduction was also set – a reduction of 42% of 1990 CO2 emissions to be achieved by 2020.
Mr Salmond gave the following speech at the launch of the target:
“When I became First Minister in 2007, I inherited a target for 50 per cent of Scotland’s electricity to be produced by renewable sources by 2020. We now know that we can achieve much more than that, more quickly -having already exceeded our 2011 target.
“Last year, we published a Routemap for Renewable Energy for Scotland, outlining how we would meet the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020. Today, we are publishing an update to that Routemap. It shows clearly the progress that has been made in the last year.
“In the light of that progress, I can announce that we have set a new interim target – by 2015 the equivalent of 50 per cent of Scotland’s electricity demand will be met by renewable sources. This target is ambitious, but also achievable. It is based on current data about capacity, which is operational, under construction, or has been consented.
“I believe creating more clean energy is essential for Scotland and this target provides three benefits in particular – energy security; environmental sustainability; and employment opportunities.
“Expanding our renewable electricity capacity in Scotland will help deliver security of supply, not just in Scotland but at UK level. Ofgem predicted earlier this month that by 2015 the UK’s electricity generation might exceed peak demand by only 4 per cent. That’s a steep decline from today’s 14 per cent, and even that 4 per cent margin is only achieved by ending electricity exports to Ireland.
“The position for Scotland is very different. By 2015 our generation capacity could exceed peak demand by approximately 35 per cent. This underlines that renewables, alongside our other generation sources, is crucial to energy security in Scotland. It’s also crucial to the UK. That second challenge of environmental sustainability is the next key benefit of renewable energy. In Scotland we are proud of the fact that the Scottish Parliamenthas unanimously passed the world’s toughest climate change legislation – requiring us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 42 per cent by 2020.
“Already, Scotland’s renewable energy production offests our carbon emissions by 15 per cent – the equivalent of taking around 3.5 million cars off the road. The continuing expansion of renewable electricity will be essential for us to meet our 2020 target.
“As well as being an environmental and moral imperative , the development of renewable energy is also a massive economic opportunity.
“Scotland is in many respects uniquely positioned to develop offshore wind, wave and tidal power – we have immense natural resources, a world-class research base and generations of engineering expertise, particularly offshore.
“Everything that the Scottish Government does – our long-term targets and our significant financial support for developing renewables – is designed to maximise those advantages, and to encourage jobs and investment. We have listened to the renewable industry, and we have worked to make Scotland one of the best places in the world to invest.
“In total, 11,000 people are now employed in the renewable energy sector. That number will grow still further – indeed, we have estimated that offshore wind alone could support up to 28,000 direct jobs by 2020.
“The Scottish Government understands that renewable energy is essential for energy security, for environmental sustainablility and for economic prosperity. For that reason, I can guarantee that we will continue to provide leadership and support for everything that you are doing here in Scotland.”
Further good news was seen this week with the publication of new figures by Bloomsberg New Energy Finance which demonstrate that the cost of operating and maintaining an onshore wind installation has dropped 38% over the last four years. or an annual reduction of 11%. Falling costs were largely attributed to improved turbine technology and increased competition between manufacturers.
Michael Leibreich, Chief Executive of Bloomsberg New Energy Finance commented:
“Wind power has done much to improve its competitiveness against gas-fired and coal-fired generation in recent years, via lower cost, more technically advanced turbines, and more sophisticated siting and management of wind turbines.”
It is hoped that the good news can continue to roll in for onshore wind particularly and the renewable energy industry more generally.