Renewables in Scotland

Scottish Renewables premiered a new animated video at the international Commonwealth Games renewable energy event in Glasgow last week highlighting the benefits of renewable energy to Scotland.

The video which has been launched to the public is designed to promote the key advantages of renewable energy projects in terms of energy generation, communities, the environment, and the economy.

Perhaps the most eye catching of the many observations noted in the video is that that the amount of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere in Scotland by renewable energy developments is equivalent to removing all motor vehicles from the country for a full year.

That means every car, bus, lorry, and train journey both private and commercial would need to be taken off the road and rails for an entire year to match the contribution of renewable energy projects in terms of carbon reduction.

Other positive points in the video include the news that Scotland now produces 50% of its electricity demands from renewable energy, more than doubling its output from 2007, also that the renewable energy industry supports over 12,000 full time jobs in Scotland and that over £1bn was invested in Scotland by renewables companies in 2013.

Speaking at the video launch Scottish Renewables’ chief executive Niall Stuart said: “The renewables industry is widely supported by the general public and is providing undoubted economic and environmental benefits to Scotland.

“As the video sets out, renewable energy is bringing investment and jobs to Scotland, helping to cut carbon emissions, and delivering funds to communities across the country – exactly what support for the sector is designed to achieve.

“The video is designed to inform the incredibly important debate about how Scotland meets its future energy needs and set out the benefits of the huge growth in renewable energy output in recent years.”

Also present at the launch was WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “Renewables are helping to create jobs and cut Scotland’s climate change emissions.

“So, it’s great to see initiatives like this highlighting the benefits of the switch to clean energy.

“These benefits will only increase as Scotland moves closer to generating 100 per cent of its electricity needs from renewables.”

Unlike some in the political sphere would have us believe the vast majority of Scots, as well as the rest of the population across the UK, are very positive when it comes to renewable energy projects.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change’s Public Attitudes Tracking Survey shows 80 per cent of the UK public back “the use of renewable energy for providing our electricity, fuel and heat” while just one in 20 opposes the idea.

In the DECC’s most recent survey, compiled in April 2014, 59% of those asked said they would be happy to have a large-scale renewable energy development in their area, while the number who would oppose a large-scale renewable energy development was only 17 per cent.

In 2013 34% of those surveyed by ComRes in England stated that they would more than likely support a political candidate who publicly supports building wind farms. Only 24% would be less likely to do so. 36% said it made no difference either way, and 7% didn’t know.

So despite what the perceived general consensus may be it looks very much like that there is strong public support for renewable energy, wind farms in particular. People understand that we have to make a fundamental change in the way we power and heat our homes plus how we fuel our transport and are ready to embrace the positive solutions renewable energy offers.

We are only at the beginning of our journey to 100% clean energy generation but Scotland has already shown it is moving significantly in the right direction.

Although there are fewer coal burning power stations than in the past we are producing as much if not more electricity than ever and it is renewable energy that is playing a major role. This means we are making huge inroads in reducing our carbon footprint as demonstrated in the Scottish Renewables video.

As we have discussed in previous blogs it doesn’t stop there. Renewable energy has a positive impact on the economy with increased investment in the local infrastructure and the creation of jobs. It has a positive impact on local communities with good causes and worthwhile projects benefitting from community contributions as well as helping support local industries including farming.

We still have far to go to reach our outright target of 100% of our energy from clean renewable sources but as we as an industry continue to grow the tangible benefits are already having a positive impact upon our society.  We can look back on what we have achieved with pride but also must remain determined to see through what we set out to do and build a future we can also be proud of.

You can watch the full Scottish Renewables video “Renewables in Scotland” here http://www.scottishrenewables.com/renewablesinscotland/

The role on Onshore Wind in our future energy mix

Recently, UK Energy Minister Michael Fallon spoke of an end to onshore wind farm developments should the Conservatives win an outright General Election in 2015.  However this comes with a warning from the Royal Academy of Engineers who state that an abolishment of wind farm developments in the UK will increase energy bills. Also the minister in charge of the full department, Ed Davey, Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, has said that “putting the brakes on onshore wind would be disastrous for business and jobs in our growing green economy.”

Mr. Fallon also failed to take into account figures from a poll by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), his own department, which showed 70% support onshore wind, 80% backed renewable energy in general, and 59% said they would be happy with a major renewable energy development in their immediate area. It seems clear that contrary to certain beliefs, the UK population does want to see the country make use of its abundant renewable energy resources.

Onshore wind is also the cheapest form of renewable energy and compares favourably against other form of energy generation. For example the Renewables Obligation costs £2bn in 2012-13, which equates to approximately 58p per UK household per week whereas the cost of decommissioning the UK’s nuclear power stations is £3bn per year, 50% higher.

The suggestion of ending all onshore wind developments also ignores the reduction in carbon emissions it brings as well as additional benefits to the UK.

The renewable energy industry’s goal has always been to end government support at a point where it is no longer required but to do this in 2015 would have a detrimental effect on the industry overall.  Investment is currently at an all-time high delivering economic benefits across the country. In Scotland alone £1bn was invested in renewable energy projects in 2013 and the industry employs over 3,500 people.

The DECC confirmed that onshore wind generated a quarter of the electricity generated in Scotland in 2013 and energy produced from renewable sources can power 3.6million homes. Onshore wind developments also reduced the carbon output of the country by 10m tonnes since 2012.

It also reduces our reliance on energy from third party nations and protects from future rapid increases in wholesale prices, something always passed onto the consumer. At present the uncertainty surrounding Russia, the largest provider of natural gas, has the potential to have a damaging effect on energy supply.

New onshore wind developments also contribute towards the necessary upgrading of grid connections which will be required for the emerging offshore wind, tidal, and wave industries. Many onshore wind developers, ILI Energy included, are investing in new grid technology which will greatly benefit these new clean energy sources both directly and indirectly. Any changes in government policy will slow progress and reduce investor confidence in onshore wind and the renewable industry on a whole.

Onshore wind offers positive solutions in energy supply, the future of our environment, the upgrading of the aging grid network and contributes significantly to economic growth and employment. Previously we have also discussed the positive impact onshore wind has on communities by helping to support the local farming community and providing benefits to good causes and worthwhile projects.

It is also important to note that without the contribution from onshore wind the UK will either fail to meet the 2020 carbon reduction target or leave us to source clean energy from other areas which is likely to increase prices.

Perhaps the most compelling point Mr. Fallon and his party should consider is the in 2013 almost £8bn was invested in renewable energy. In a report from the DECC it was also confirmed that since 2010, an average of £7bn a year has been investment in renewables which produces 15% of the UK’s electricity.

Along with the report being published Ed Davey announced the details a new scheme in which businesses and organisations will compete for funding for projects which reduce electricity demand.  Initially the scheme will offer £10m from a total budget of £20m.

Better efficiency could create savings equivalent to 9% of total demand by 2030, the DECC said.

Davey said: “Our plan is powering growth and jobs in the UK economy. We are building a secure, sustainable energy system for the future, dealing with an historic legacy of underinvestment and neglect that threatened to undermine the whole economy.

“The funds we invest now in keeping the lights on could, in the future, be available to support cheaper projects that deliver lasting reductions in peak electricity demand.”

At ILI Energy we appreciate the necessity of reducing our energy demands, it makes sense both economically and environmentally and therefore applaud such schemes however we are also aware that we will always require energy.

In the future, the need for this energy to be both clean and inexpensive points towards the continuation of new onshore wind developments. Therefore any political party looking to end the government support in this industry should consider the compelling arguments discussed above and the impact this will have country.

Renewable Energy in Scotland moving forward

A new underwater cable which will link more than 100 miles of subsea along the Moray Firth in Scotland and will provide a huge boost for renewable energy in the region has been given the go-ahead with a projected cost of £1.2 billion energy regulator Ofgem have announced.

Ofgem, who have approved the link, also announced new plans to reduce charges for renewable energy generators stating that from the 1st of April 2016 the charges from transmission operator National Grid will closely reflect their use of the network. The industry watchdog stated that this will benefit wind and solar energy suppliers who do not constantly use the grid.

Speaking at the announcement Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond said “this is welcome news for the Scottish electricity sector and consumers. They support the transition to a low-carbon economy by encouraging renewable generation in the areas of highest resource and ensure Scotland continues to play a vital role in delivering security of electricity supply across these islands.”

The project which is due to be completed in 2018 and will connect up to 1.2 gigawatts of renewable energy represents the largest investment in the regions electricity infrastructure in over 50 years.

Project development which is being handled by Scottish Hydro Electricity Transmission (a subsidiary of SSE) will begin before the end of 2014 and is expected to create more than 600 jobs.

Managing Director of the networks division of the energy company Mark Mathieson said “we have the best solution for connecting renewable energy to the transmission system”.

He also stated “‘I am very pleased that it has been given the green light and we will now work with Ofgem on the remaining details and focus on ensuring that the new link is constructed in a safe and responsible way so that the benefits it will bring in unlocking renewable sources of energy for decades to come are realised.”

Mr Salmond said: “The £1.2 billion investment by Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission will ensure continued progress towards our renewable energy ambitions, play a role in supporting future island generation and support hundreds of jobs during construction. It also underlines once again the essential role that renewable energy in Scotland has to play in meeting the UK’s long-term energy requirements.”

He also stated that Ofgem’s decision to “reduce the level of discriminatory grid charges for electricity generators in Scotland is particularly welcome.”

Martin Crouch, Ofgem senior partner for transmission said the new subsea cable is a “major step forward for an essential upgrade to the high voltage grid so that more renewable energy can connect to the networks”.

He added that the changes to the transmission charging scheme are “the result of an extensive consultation process and detailed analysis. The new arrangements more accurately reflect the costs of Britain’s diverse energy generation and will lead to lower costs overall for consumers.”

Senior policy manager at the industry body Scottish Renewables Michael Rieley said the subsea link would “significantly reduce bottlenecks on the system, and could unleash over 1.2GW of renewable energy projects in the north of Scotland which is enough energy to power the equivalent of 637,575 homes.”

He also added changes to the charging scheme are “a long-awaited, and much welcomed, recognition of the value of the Scottish renewable energy sector”.

“The changes will help create a more level playing field between generators on the Scottish mainland and those further south, which is crucial if we are to make the transition to a low-carbon energy system while also providing value for consumers. Despite our disappointment that the new charging regime won’t be implemented until 2016, four years later than originally estimated, this announcement from Ofgem is undoubtedly good news for the sector.”

Lang Banks, director of environmental body WWF Scotland, said: “Given the urgent need to clean up the UK’s power sector, cut climate emissions and keep the lights on, it’s bizarre we’ve had a system in place that has effectively penalised some of the nation’s best locations for generating renewable energy.

“While it’s a pity that the scheme won’t now start until 2016, we very much welcome the news that an agreement has been reached to improve the electricity charging regime. This decision should help to unlock much more of Scotland’s massive renewable energy potential.

“Scotland already generates about a third of the UK’s entire renewable electricity needs and has the potential to contribute more in the future now that this agreement is in place.”

As the renewable energy industry in our country continues to grow along with the infrastructure required and the advances in technology this makes the ambitious targets set by the Scottish Government  more likely to be met. The subsea link and cost reductions will enhance the industry’s ability to reach this target of producing 100% of our energy needs from renewable sources.

SSE has also announced it has invested over £4.5 million in community projects, the bulk being in Scotland, in the last financial year. The energy company stated that 366 not for profit groups benefited from community investment funds created through its hydro and onshore wind developments.

Biggar Museum Trust received the largest individual award of £650,000 from SSE’s Clyde wind farm fund to part finance a new visitor centre.

Other awards included a £400,000 grant to support Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) studies across Highland schools, and a £75,000 grant to enable the community buy-out of Aberfeldy town hall in Perthshire.

Skills and employment projects received more than £1 million in grants including £267,000 to an employment programme in South Lanarkshire and over £110,000 to three local apprenticeship projects operating in the Cairngorms National Park and Sutherland.

SSE chief executive Alistair Phillips-Davies said: “A sum as large as £4.5m will deliver a positive impact, but it’s not simply about the value of our funding – how we do it matters too. By working with communities in genuine partnership, I believe we can support local decision-makers to ensure these funds can go even further and deliver sustainable benefits to the community year after year.”

The figures were included in SSE’s first community investment annual review. It said that for every pound awarded, recipients sourced an additional two pounds in match-funding from other sources, raising the overall impact of the funding to £13.5m.

In Scotland community benefit contributions are voluntary which when we first made our way in the industry surprised us. However from the outset we committed to make a contribution on each of our projects which was developed and have not changed since.

This means that ILI Renewable Energy has contributed over £800,000 to community projects through our renewable energy developments since 2011.

We believe that the importance in making these contributions cannot be underestimated. Not only does it promote renewable energy but more importantly it makes a positive memorable contribution to the local communities in which our projects have been developed. Our legacy first and foremost will be clean renewable energy however we are also very proud to be adding to this with an economic boost for local charities, groups, and projects.

 

 

 

 

The Rise of the Independents

Independent Renewable Energy Schemes in Scotland are now producing enough energy to power over a million homes. A new report from SmartestEnergy “Energy Entrepreneurs Report 2014” also states that independent renewable energy projects saw a 50% rise in 2013 and that over £66m was invested into these independent schemes.

The report published by SmartestEnergy, a buyer of power generated by the independent sector states that this generated around £234m of electricity last year, a significant improvement on the £191m achieved in 2012.

Scottish Renewables stated that the rise showed independent electricity generators including communities, businesses, landowners, and public bodies were increasingly taking their energy future into their own hands.

SmartestEnergy’s Energy Entrepreneurs Report 2014 demonstrates that in Scotland 169 new independent renewable projects started in 2013, up 50 per cent on the number of new-starts in 2012. The report also estimates that £66.7m has been invested in the commercial-scale projects, taking the total number of independent projects of 50kW capacity or more in Scotland to over 500.

Scotland now accounts for 28% of independent renewable energy generation capacity in Great Britain. Northern regions Aberdeenshire and the Highlands & Islands are together responsible for more than 38 per cent of this amount.

All this means that total capacity has grown by 25.6 per cent to 1,762MW, enough to generate £234.5m worth of wholesale electricity a year and power more than a million households.

One of the most recent developments, and now the largest community wind farm in Scotland is the Loch Carnan community wind farm which is generating profits for investors in South Uist, Benbecula and Eriskay by Stòras Uibhist, the community company which led Scotland’s biggest land buyout in 2006. The wind farm is expected to generate £2m gross revenue for the island community in 2014 alone.

Huw Francis, chief executive of Stòras Uibhist, said: “This is the biggest community wind farm in Scotland with 6.9MW of capacity – but there has not been any real criticism of the turbines because people can see that the revenue they generate is staying in the community and helping us to maintain and enhance the environment of our islands.”

Stephanie Clark, policy manager for Scottish Renewables, commented: “The Stòras Uibhist scheme is one of many excellent independent projects in Scotland.

“More communities, businesses and farmers across Scotland are grasping the opportunity to take their energy future into their own hands.

“There are many persuasive reasons why renewable energy is increasingly popular: lower energy costs in the future; a reduced carbon footprint; potential income from selling power into the grid; and, as in Stòras Uibhist, a positive and direct impact on the local community.”

Iain Robertson, head of generation for SmartestEnergy, which buys electricity from more than 100 projects in Scotland, said: “With over £1m a week being invested in these schemes, the independent sector is making an important contribution to the Scottish economy and providing valuable work for contractors and suppliers.”

The farming community has shown the strongest growth in terms of numbers of projects with a rise of over 83 per cent since last year’s report, outstripping the significant rise seen in Great Britain as a whole. The fastest growing Scottish region in terms of numbers of new sites is the Borders with a 140 per cent increase.

294 of the 509 independent renewable energy projects are onshore wind. Hydro 131 projects, landfill gas 42, solar 17, and biomass 12 make up the majority of the rest. Scotland is home to more than 50% of commercial-scale independent onshore wind in Great Britain and an estimated £248m has been invested in the 294 wind projects to date, an average per project of £846,109.

This is exactly what we do at ILI Renewable Energy and many of these projects will be ours. Although large scale wind projects produce the most of the renewable energy output in Scotland the impact of the independents cannot be underestimated.

In many areas a large scale development is not feasible for what could be varying reasons; environmental impact, visual impact, transport restrictions, grid restrictions plus others. The medium scale developments in which the independents are mostly involved can often overcome these issues as the impact of the turbine plus the addition to the grid is not as great as large scale projects.

Also as mentioned above the farming community has shown a huge level growth in terms of numbers of projects. We have spoken previously about the importance of the farming community in general and the additional income these projects can bring benefits farmers and the community in several ways. They can pay for farm labour, structural improvements, raw materials etc. all putting money back into the community and helping it grow positively.

Local communities involved in community developments like Loch Carnan and the many like it around the country can be proud of what they are achieving and how it is benefitting us all.

We appreciate that in order to reach our goals on renewable energy production large scale developments are necessary however we are delighted to see independent projects on the rise helping us reach these targets. The benefits the projects bring are wide ranging and affect many in a positive manner.

Renewable Energy’s Record Breakers

Germany’s northernmost, and windiest, state Schleswig-Holstein which borders Denmark and the North and Baltic Seas recently announced it is set to generate all of its electricity from renewable energy in 2014 and also has set the target of generating 300% of its electricity needs from renewables in the coming years. This is off the back of Germany shattering three solar records and also setting a new overall renewables record earlier this year with 74% clean energy use.

Over the past eight years Schleswig-Holstein has gone from producing around 30% of its energy from wind power to 100%, a significant achievement in a relatively short space of time. It is the home to more than two hundred businesses in the renewable energy wind sector with over 7,000 people employed in the industry.  In total wind power in Germany provides over 100,000 jobs and that is a figure expected to increase as the country continues to phase out its dependence on nuclear energy and move towards renewables.

As Schleswig-Holstein aims to become the first of Germany’s states to pass the 300% renewables mark, a Bavarian village already comfortably blew past that milestone in 2011. Wildpoldsried produced a massive 321% of its electricity from renewable energy, generating €4m (US $5.7 million) in revenue by selling it back to the national grid.

In the USA records were also being broken as recently inTexas, the nation’s largest wind power producer, a major milestone was achieved in March when according to a new Energy Information Administration report it produced more wind power in a given moment than ever before.

The Lone Star State hit “peak wind” on March 26 when the state’s wind farms produced 10,296 megawatts of electricity. This meant that wind turbines provided enough electricity to supply power for 29 percent of the total electricity load of the state’s main power grid.

“Texas leads the nation in wind capacity, more than double the next state (California), so it’s safe to say that no other state has come close so far,” EIA industry economist April Lee said. “The recent peak is generally indicative of the increasing amount of wind capacity across the United States and the need for grid operators to manage growing volumes of wind power on their systems.”

Texas has more than 12 gigawatts of total wind power capacity, but up until March this year its turbines have never produced that much electricity at any given moment. The March 26 output record beat a record set the previous week by about 600 megawatts. Both of those blew past the state’s previous wind power record set in May 2013, when output reached 9,674 megawatts (one megawatt of wind power is enough energy to provide electricity to roughly 300 homes).

One of the reasons Texas is seeing growth in consumption of wind power is the completion of major renewable energy transmission line projects in 2013.

Since 2008, when the Texas Legislature named ten companies to complete the transmission projects by the end of last year as part of the creation of competitive renewable energy zones, approximately 3,600 miles of 345 kilovolt power lines were built connecting West Texas renewable power source with eastern Texas cities.

Wind power production in Texas is expected to increase as new wind farms come online. More than 7,000 megawatts of wind capacity were under construction at the end of 2013, and many of those wind farms are expected to be completed by the end of 2015.

Finally moving onto the southern hemisphere now and Australians overwhelmingly want the renewable energy target to be retained or even increased, as the current government considers abolishing the incentive for new renewable projects.

Polling for the Climate Institute showed 72% of Australians want to keep or expand the renewable energy target (RET), which requires that 20% of energy is sourced from renewables by 2020.

This is slightly higher than the 69% who said they wanted the RET maintained or increased when the same questions were posed in last year’s poll, despite a strong campaign over the past year by industry groups and government backbenchers arguing that the RET was increasing power prices.

Respondents were then told “opponents of the scheme say the RET is a subsidy that drives up electricity bills, while supporters say it has helped create jobs and has tripled Australia’s wind and solar energy since 2009”. 71% still thought it should remain at its current level, 20%, or be increased, even after hearing the arguments. Support was especially high among women, with only 7% wanting the RET decreased or abolished.

The poll also found that 76% of people think state governments should do more to provide incentives to renewable energy. Again the strongest support came from women (82%).

The poll was conducted for the Climate Institute by JWS research from May 16-20. The sample size was 1,145 and the margin of error is 2.9%.

It will come as no surprise that Germany is breaking records for Renewable Energy production. The country has led the way for several years in the development of the technology required for renewable energy projects and also the way the government promotes the generation of the energy.

The USA maybe a little more behind overall, but is making giant strides in moving the industry forward and has the necessary resources to become the world leader in renewable energy. Public opinion in the US may be split but the government is continuing to move forward with positive policies and infrastructure investment.

Australia has also made good progress in its renewable energy industry and public opinion, as demonstrated above, is very much behind it however the government does look like it is moving away from a positive position to more neutral one.

It is our belief that with continued public support governments and other responsible bodies will continue to promote and assist the renewable energy industries around the world. We can all make a difference no matter how little you perceive it to be so make your voice heard and your message clear.