Progress requires outside assistance

The Scottish Government is to set up a new body to encourage and promote innovation in the wave energy sector of the renewable energy industry. Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said Wave Energy Scotland would draw on the sector’s best engineering and academic minds with the aim to hasten development and encourage private investment.

It is expected that Mr. Ewing will give further details during his statement to the Scottish Parliament this week however it was noted that ministers understood that in the primary stage of new technologies, such as wave technology, things can take time to flourish. It was also stated that despite generous support for the sector from the Scottish Government a lack of private capital had held back progress of the wave and tidal energy industry.

Mr Ewing said: “This is a young industry and we still have a lot of learning to do in marine renewables. We want to encourage further innovation in wave energy development and we recognise the need for a bold new approach to supporting this emerging technology.

“There is also a lack of design convergence in wave energy with many different concepts in development, while tidal appears to be converging on a front-runner design. With Wave Energy Scotland, we are proposing a fresh and collaborative way to accelerate wave technology development.

“The best minds in industry and academia will work together to develop technologies that can be commercialised by the private sector.”

Scottish Renewables welcomed the introduction of Wave Energy Scotland Senior policy manager Lindsay Leask said: “Capturing wave energy is a complex and demanding process, and although the sector is still in its infancy Scotland can rightly be said to hold a world lead in the development of this cutting-edge technology.

“The Scottish government should be applauded for the creation of Wave Energy Scotland, which will provide crucial support to the home-grown Scottish companies who dominate the sector and allow collaboration on key shared engineering issues.

Sticking with the Scottish Government and the Economy, Energy, and Tourism Committee has written to Dermot Nolan, the CEO of Ofgem, requesting that he addresses concerns of residents of the Outer Hebrides that prospective renewable energy developments are being undermined by continuing setbacks to the delivery of new improved national grid infrastructure to the islands.

The Committee estimated that approximately £2billion could be invested in renewable energy projects in the Outer Hebrides creating jobs and boosting the local community but the ongoing delays in constructing the infrastructure are preventing such investment from being made.

Welcoming the Committee’s move, SNP MSP Mike MacKenzie said: “Scotland’s islands are home to vast energy potential, but in order to secure the jobs and investment that come with these resources, they need to be able to transmit their energy to the rest of Scotland and beyond.

“The years of delay in establishing the grid connections that are needed to the Outer Hebrides is a disgrace and is undermining the economy of the Western Isles.”

Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil said: “The Scottish Government has been actively campaigning for interconnectors to our islands, but for too long there has been only delay after delay from Ofgem and Whitehall.

“Ofgem need to wake up to the damage that their delays and inaction in this area are causing and explain their failure to make progress.”

It is no surprise that there is a direct correlation between these two stories. The shores of Scotland, and particularly those in the north of the country, offer a wealth of renewable energy resource in wave and tidal power. However without the infrastructure in place to deliver this energy to areas of higher population the commercial potential remains low. This in turn dissuades private investment and therefore diminishes the opportunity for innovation which would help reduce productions costs.

We at ILI Energy are in favour of strong private investment in the industry but the conditions have to be right. The opportunity to harvest the renewable energy resources of these areas must be coupled with the ability to export the clean energy to a ready consumer base. The demand for energy and particularly clean energy is high so it is the ability to export that is hampering progress.

This is where the Government and associated bodies must step up to develop the infrastructure required and attract the necessary capital to drive the industry forward. The long term benefits, as we are now seeing with wind developments, are tangible. Both the public and private sectors as well as consumers will benefit from this, it just needs that spark to get things moving in the right direction.

Safeguarding the environment, boosting the economy

Trade association RenewableUK has confirmed that the amount of people working in the medium and large scale sectors of the UK wind energy industry has now exceeded 30,000 of which 50% are in direct full time positions.

This indicates an increase of more than 6,000 workers directly employed in key renewable energy roles in four years, rising from 9,000 in 2010.

These figures are included in Renewable UK’s recently released annual report “Wind Energy in the UK” as are those for indirect job such as supply components which have also increased since September 2013 to over 14,000 positions, up by 8%.

All in all this adds up to more than 30,000 people in the UK relying on wind energy for their livelihoods, mostly in engineering positions, and is increasing at a rate of over 2,000 every twelve months.

The annual study also revealed that new onshore wind developments brought in over £1.5 billion of investment in twelve months. Total offshore wind investment reached £1 billion. In addition, since the localisation of business rates for new onshore developments, wind farms in England now contribute of £5.5 million a year to local authority accounts.

RenewableUK are also launching a new campaign, assisted by Energy Secretary Ed Davey, called “Faces of Wind Energy” a multimedia initiative which aims to tell the individual stories of workers in the UK wind industry.

The intent is for the workers to explain in their own words how they are part of the UK’s green collar clean energy revolution whilst a new online career map detailing the different roles within the industry is to be launched including which qualifications and experience are necessary.

Mr Davey said: “The energy sector is powering Britain’s economic recovery – and the jobs created in the wind industry show why Britain’s the global number one for offshore wind capacity and investment.

“Our historic electricity reforms allow us to build on that success, supporting a diverse energy mix that promotes renewables alongside other low-carbon technologies to make sure that we’re keeping the lights on with secure, clean, home-grown electricity.”

RenewableUK’s Chief Executive, Maria McCaffery, said: “Nearly two and a half thousand people have joined the UK wind industry’s dynamic, highly motivated workforce over the last year. That’s a growth rate that most other sectors can only dream of – renewables is the employment engine of the future.

“The inspiring videos and photographs of the Faces of Wind Energy campaign, with back stories about individual workers’ personal commitments to tackling climate change, show the absolute determination of our workforce to clean up the way we generate electricity, to keep Britain’s lights on at the lowest possible cost.

“However, we still face numerous challenges. The growth of the most cost-effective of all renewable technologies, onshore wind, is threatened with extinction by the Conservatives misguided policy of ending all future support for it.

“The Tories are way out of step with the two-thirds majority of the public which consistently supports onshore wind. Politicians need to get behind the many thousands of people doing their bit to make onshore and offshore renewables a UK success story. Instead of standing in the way they should let the new faces of wind energy do their job for the sake of the nation.”

RenewableUK’s previous report “Working for a Green Britain” published in September 2013 showed that with supportive Government policy over 80,000 people could be working in the UK wind energy industry by 2023.

In local news new proposals are being made to potentially simplify the zoning system which currently surrounds the Eskdalemuir seismic monitoring station in the south of Scotland. At present there is a 10km exclusion zone and a 50km consultation zone for wind energy projects however the Scottish Government working group are proposing replacing both with a single 15km exclusion zone.

This could free up many potential sites through the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway regions as fears over the impact to the equipment which wind farms may have caused have now subsided. This has led to the MoD to revise its procedures and has led to the proposal of the more straightforward system.

At ILI Energy we believe that new wind turbine developments should be sited sensitively, taking into account all factors including visual and environmental impact. However we also strongly advocate the generation and use of clean energy and most of the people in the UK agree with us. By doing this we are safeguarding both the environment and skilled jobs and the positive effect it has on the country both economically and ecologically is enough to persuade the majority that it is the correct path to take.

The revised policy regarding the Eskdalemuir exclusion zone opens up new development areas in a region rich in natural resources for projects capable of delivering large quantities of clean renewable energy whilst at the same time supporting the economy both locally and nationally. The Government should take note; this is an opportunity to protect everyone’s future and should not be relinquished in favour of short term gains elsewhere.

Scotland’s Green Bond

Scottish Renewables recently announced its blueprint for the 2015 UK General Election and included within was a proposal for a “Green Bond” which would allow the public to invest in renewable energy technology.

They claim that a decent return on their investment could be offered via the bond and that the funds raised would provide the industry with necessary investment in infrastructure.

Scottish Renewables also proposed that the Green Investment Bank, based in Edinburgh, would be the perfect partner to manage the project. They also stated that although there are currently specialist investment funds of this type available via the stock market the green bond scheme would be open to all investors.

Scottish Renewables chief executive Niall Stuart said: “It’s time to give every saver in Britain the opportunity to invest in, and to benefit from, the continued growth of the green energy sector.

“The UK needs to invest tens of billions of pounds in the energy sector over coming years – firstly just to keep the lights on and secondly to continue the move away from fossil fuels to cleaner sources of energy.

“New power generation, transmission lines and renewable heat projects all require big capital investment up front, but could offer savers a decent return on their money over the life of the project, certainly beating the record low interest rates on savings accounts today.”

Also in its election manifesto Scottish Renewables set out priorities for the renewable energy industry within the next period of parliament. This includes consistently reducing climate change emissions from the energy sector, focusing more on renewable heat and transport and an energy summit with representatives from the government, industry, and other associated bodies to be held every three years.

We at ILI Energy are all for investment in renewable energy technology and green bond is great way of offering investors the chance to benefit whilst at the same time promoting renewable energy generation. This benefits all; the industry receives much needed research and development funds, investors benefit with returns, costs are driven down to the benefit of consumers and everybody reduces their reliance on fossil fuels.

Sticking with Scotland and the organisers of this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow have announced that recycling drive which took place during the games has set a new benchmark for delivering major events in a sustainable way.

86% of rubbish was diverted from landfill during the event, eclipsing the target of 80%, due to the cleaning and waste programme devised by the organisers and according to the final report a number of key achievements were attained including recycling 49% of all waste generated during the Games. This included 60 tonnes of food waste which went to compost due to the separation of food waste at the different Games venues.

David Grevemberg, Glasgow 2014 chief executive, said: “Glasgow 2014 has to thank our athletes, Games partners and Games family, spectators, our volunteers and absolutely everyone who played a part in helping us achieve such a great performance in delivering a sustainable Commonwealth Games.

“In doing so, we have met targets and also set a new gold standard in delivering major events in Scotland in a sustainable way. Sustainability was at the core of all our decisions and not an added extra or bolted on strategy and it was our aim to contribute to making positive and lasting changes in the way we use natural and human resources to improve quality of life for all; now and in the future.”

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead added: “I was particularly impressed by the recycling ambassadors who volunteered to help people sort their waste, and I am sure innovative measures such as these made a real and positive contribution to what was achieved. I now look forward to seeing how we can build on this valuable experience to help make other major events in Scotland as green as possible.”

The Games organisers worked closely with advisors from Zero Waste Scotland and were awarded for their efforts with the ISO 20121, the gold international standard in sustainable event management.

Finally there was more good news for Scotland as October was a “bumper month” for renewable energy in Scotland, with wind power alone producing more than enough electricity to meet the needs of every home in the country.

Wind turbines generated an estimated 982,842 megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity last month with WWF Scotland stating this was enough to power 3,045,000 homes, the equivalent of 126% of the electricity needs of every home in Scotland.

WWF Scotland analysed figures from the WeatherEnergy organisation, looking at the estimated amount of power produced by the wind and the sun in Scotland.

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said:” While nuclear power plants were being forced to shut because of cracks, Scotland’s wind and sunshine were quietly and cleanly helping to keep the lights on in homes across the country.

“With wind power generating enough electricity to power 126% of the needs of every home in Scotland, it really was a bumper month for renewables in Scotland.

”The science is clear, if we are to prevent the worst impacts of global climate change, then the world needs to move away from fossil fuels. The good news is that here in Scotland we’re making good use of wind power to create clean electricity.”

We have spoken before of the renewable energy resources we have in Scotland and now we are seeing what can be accomplished by harnessing some of this power. However more can be achieved and with a green bond scheme in place, we can push on with technology and aim to power all of our homes and businesses with renewable energy as well as sell any surplus to our neighbours. In the past this may have been regarded as a pipe dream but now we have shown that it is an attainable reality.

Working together to achieve our goals

Last week it was announced that the European Union has set a new target for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030. This was agreed by all member states including us here in the UK. This will hopefully mean new policies promoting renewable energy in the country.

Action for Renewables a new campaign supported by seven UK renewable energy trade bodies is delighted that the UK fought hard for ambitious targets in a fraught political situation and the proposals agreed show a real commitment to reform the EU’s weakened Emissions Trading Scheme. However they are disappointed the European wide energy from renewable sources target of at least 27% is not as great an incentive than the current Member State level 2020 target.

We have previously discussed how almost all renewable energy technologies could be delivering less expensive energy than any other form of low carbon generation by 2030. Also, several, and in particular onshore wind, could become the cheapest forms of energy in the market and no longer require subsidy as both renewable and fossil fuel energy sources currently do.

However to achieve these cost reductions the industry needs clarity of future policy and targets. It can then seek investment based on this to drive the technology forwards and develop skills.

Action for renewables have specifically urged the UK Government to present a clear definition for the role of renewable energy in the 2030 energy mix and the objectives required to achieve this. In addition they also want the Government to push for a radical reform of the Emission Trading Scheme and provide an effective carbon price that gives renewables an equal footing with fossil fuels.

Tony Juniper, Chair of Action for Renewables, said:

“Now we have the EU 2030 framework in place it’s time to work on delivery. Renewables are the only generation technologies that meet all of the goals we must pursue in parallel. They are genuinely low carbon, improve our energy security and long term bring down costs. Renewables also create jobs and enable ordinary people to invest in energy production.

“The UK is doing good work on pushing forward much-needed reforms to the EU ETS. But we now need to build on this good work and unlock the full potential of renewables for transforming our energy system in the 2020s.”

Action for Renewables recommended a 30% 2030 renewable energy target for the UK and reform of the EU ETS as two of its six ‘key tests’ for the next government:

Support the Climate Change Act to keep us on course to meet our carbon commitments and back global efforts to tackle climate change.

Set a new renewables target for 2030 of 30% of UK energy

Back the Independent Committee on Climate Change’s recommendation to set a binding target for low carbon electricity by 2030.

Fund the Renewable Heat Incentive for new applications after 2016.

Boost the UK’s Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation to reach the 10% renewable energy target for transport by 2020.

Reform the EU Emissions Trading Scheme to ensure the market takes account of all sectors’ polluting cost of carbon emissions.

We wholeheartedly agree with Action for Renewables points. The renewable energy industry in the UK is strong and we have advocated before for a clear plan of action from the Government to support it. This may take the form of targets, subsidies, and investment in technology. All this will promote investment, increase renewable energy production, reduce our carbon emissions, and in the long term secure our energy future with diminishing costs.

For example Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has spoken recently about the need for governments, regulators and the private sector to work together to secure grid connections for Orkney and Shetland.

Speaking at the event on grid connections, Mr Carmichael said: “Last year the coalition government also announced a specific strike price for Scottish Islands which will help to unlock their renewable potential.

“That was a welcome and necessary step and it established an important principle. It provides, however, only a mechanism for supporting generation capacity once it is installed.

“Without grid connections for the islands we shall never see that capacity installed and the potential for the generation of tidal and wave power will not be realised — or at the very least it will not be realised here.”

Orkney and Shetland offer wonderful renewable energy resources but without an advanced grid connection their potential cannot be realised. There are many cases like this throughout the country where untapped renewable energy sources cannot be accessed due to a lack of proper technology.  Government, industry, and academia; we all must work together in order to attain as many clean reliable energy sources as possible. Incentive must be offered as that will encourage investment which in turn will help fund innovation.