21st Century Success Story

December 2014 will be remembered as being a great month for Renewable Energy in Scotland. First it was announced that in the first six months of 2014 renewable energy was the main source of electricity generated in the country. Then a second announcement the following week stated that for the month of November renewable energy generated more than 100% of our electricity demand.

Now we have a third announcement declaring that just under 12 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in Scotland were displaced by renewable energy in 2013, the most recent year that we have data for. This reduction is the highest ever achieved in Scotland and the announcement has come at a time when most of the world have been attempting to come to an agreement on future carbon emissions at the climate talks in Lima, Peru.

These new figures were published in response to a Parliamentary Question tabled by Eilidh Whiteford MP and answered by UK Energy Minister Amber Rudd MP. The answer stated that 11.9 million tonnes of CO2 was displaced by generating electricity from renewable sources in 2013, a rise of 14% on the 2012 figures.

Joss Blamire, Senior Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables, said: “This means that not only are renewables now the number one source of electricity in Scotland, but we have achieved this milestone while preventing a record amount of harmful carbon emissions from being released into our atmosphere.

“Renewable energy in Scotland is doing exactly what it was designed to do: creating jobs, securing our energy supplies and, most importantly, reducing our carbon emissions to help limit climate change.”

Speaking from the UN’s Climate Change Conference in Lima WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “That renewables in Scotland are now helping to displace almost a million tonnes of climate pollution every month is fantastic news, and proof that a renewable power sector is the foundation of a truly low carbon economy – keeping the lights on, creating jobs and cutting emissions.

“Right now, governments from almost 200 countries are meeting in Peru to agree how they will reduce global emissions and prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

“The growing success of renewables in helping to cut emissions both in Scotland and across Europe is exactly what is needed right now to help encourage other countries to secure a good deal on climate.”

This great news demonstrating once again that Scotland’s commitment to renewable energy is reaping rewards on every level. It can out supply all other generation sources, with the right conditions it can provide 100% of our electricity needs and all at the same time vastly reduce our carbon footprint.

Sticking with Scotland but on a local scale community groups in the Outer Hebrides in Scotland are harnessing the natural resources for a significant local gain and have recently reached a major milestone with the instillation of 10.5MW of community based energy developments with an additional 11MW due in 2015.

Five Community Trusts, aided by trade body Community Energy Scotland, have installed a number of large scale wind turbines throughout the islands with the income generated to be used to help deal with fuel poverty, transport, and housing.

Last week, Community Energy Scotland hosted a local event in Stornaway showcasing the successes of the project so far. Speaking prior to the event Kathleen Macdonald of Community Energy Scotland said: “Community energy projects were the first to install large scale renewables on the islands and have been at the forefront of renewable developments across Scotland.

“This is a great opportunity for the Development Trusts to showcase what they have achieved and to inform and inspire other communities and the general public.”

This event covered many of the aspects associated with community wind projects including the experiences which groups such as Horshader Community Development in Shawbost went through to get their turbine installed.  This will comprise of sessions covering subjects including local energy economies and how these can assist in the instillation of renewable energy developments and the proposed Energy Supply Company which will have the aim of selling the locally generated electricity to domestic markets.

Also representatives of Urras Energy (part of Galson Estate) were on hand to explain their share offer opportunity and how anyone can invest. The event also highlighted projects which Trusts such as Coimhearsnachd Bharraidh agus Bhatarsaidh were able to fund, as well as the successful application process they went through.

There can be no doubt that renewable energy in Scotland is a 21st century success story. Promoted and encouraged by both Scottish and UK Governments, driven by a dedicated industry and supported by the entire nation it has grown to become an essential component of our energy mix. However it is a story that is no more than half complete. In order to build on what have already achieved we must continue to promote, encourage, drive and support renewable energy in this country. The output is proven to be sustainable which in turn makes the environmental and economic benefits tangible.

 

Energy’s Richest Source

Scotland continues to raise the bar when it comes to renewable energy production. After the announcement last week confirming that electricity from wind energy was the largest providing source in the first half of 2014, new figures released by WWF Scotland this week indicated that more than 100% of the electricity required by Scottish households in November 2014 came from wind turbines alone.

And it doesn’t stop there, on the 11th of November, when the output was at its highest, electricity to supply over 5 million households for the entire day was generated. That is equivalent to 221% of Scotland’s homes. In total wind turbines generated over 800,000MWh in November, enough to power over 2.5 million households. This total also does not include smaller turbines which supply directly to homes and businesses and are not connected into the grid meaning the final figure is likely to be even higher.

This news comes at a time of UN climate talks in Lima, Peru where Scotland has a major presence, something which should come as no surprise given our renewable energy targets and now, generation ability. WWF Scotland’s Lang Banks, speaking at the climate talks said “While Torness nuclear power station had to be shutdown unexpectedly, November turned out to be another big month for wind power in Scotland, with enough pollution-free electricity generated to supply 107 per cent of Scottish households with the electricity they need.

“Even on calmer days, when wind wasn’t at its strongest, wind still supplied the equivalent of almost a third of electricity needs of every home. It’s clear that wind is now a critical and growing part of our current power sector.”

“I’m currently at the UN climate talks spreading the word about Scotland’s world leading climate targets and the rapid progress we’re making on renewables. I hope that news of November’s renewable output, alongside news that renewables are now the largest source of electricity in Scotland, will help inspire other countries to follow our lead, embrace the clear opportunities clean energy provides and secure progress for global action on climate.”

Also at the talks is Scotland’s Environmental and Climate Change Minister Aileen McLeod. Speaking before she left she said “The scientific evidence could not be clearer. The world is getting warmer and greenhouse gas emissions from mankind are extremely likely to be the dominant cause of climate change.

“That is why I am taking a very strong message to the UN meeting in Lima that the international community must match Scotland’s world-leading climate change ambitions.

“The Scottish Government takes climate change extremely seriously. Our solid progress towards achieving a 42 per cent reduction in emissions by 2020 from a 1990 baseline has been praised by our independent assessors the Committee on Climate Change, and we have committed almost £1 billion of Scottish Government funding over the next two years for climate change action.

“We know our targets are not easy but they are at the level the international community needs to match if the new climate treaty in Paris next year is to stand a good chance of limiting global temperature rise to no more than 2 degrees Celsius.

“By sharing Scotland’s high ambition on climate change with the international delegates attending this crucial summit in Peru, we will show that substantial progress on cutting emissions is do-able as well as desirable.

“Climate change affects every single person on this planet and so it is time for the global community to step up and follow Scotland’s lead. However, these targets are not just for governments or politicians – everyone has a role to play in reducing emissions.”

Commenting on WWF’s wind power figures Dr McLeod added: “Scotland’s renewable energy targets are amongst the most ambitious in the world and we are punching above our weight in the international effort to tackle climate change.

“For example, we generated 46.6 per cent equivalent of Scotland’s gross electricity production from renewables in 2013 and we are making excellent progress towards meeting our target of the equivalent of 100 per cent of gross annual electricity demand from renewables by 2020.

“This is just one of the ways in which Scotland is working to meet our world-leading climate change ambitions which I will be urging the international community to match when I am at the UN climate talks in Lima this week.”

In related news 43% of UK households were supplied electricity from energy generated by wind turbines last Sunday (07-12-14) which is another record level. An average of 7.315GW of energy was produced by wind farms beating the previous record of 7.234GW set back in January of this year.

These figures have been welcomed by industry groups throughout the country who have argued that onshore wind as well as the cheapest form of renewable energy is also one of the most popular. Surveys constantly illustrate that around 65% of the population support wind farms and a new poll demonstrates that most home owners are happy to have wind turbines nearby.

A new poll conducted by Accent for the Energy Institute and New Power Magazine found that over 60% of home owners would welcome wind turbines within five miles of their home compared to 24% that would accept a gas extraction site and 18% that backed nuclear.

Despite this trade body RenewableUK have expressed concern that onshore wind developments are being constantly blocked at upper Government levels. Jennifer Webber RenewableUK’s director of external affairs explained “This research shows the majority of people welcome wind turbines near them, and no wonder when they’re providing clean, domestic power when it’s needed most like on cold December Sundays.

“Yet despite voters from across the political divide clearly showing that they want more wind power, it continues to be blocked. It’s time for politicians to get real and show support for the technology which currently powers over six and a half million homes for 5p a day on the average household bill.”

The support in the past from the Government has assisted the growth in our renewable energy industry, the benefits from which we are now clearly seeing. It is now however at risk as the support turns to opposition. The outcome of next year’s General Election may determine the long-term future of renewable energy in this country. Public opinion should dictate that it doesn’t but recent evidence shows us that it may.

However regardless of which political party triumphs and what their energy strategy is one thing is for certain, in the long-term all countries must have a sustainable renewable energy industry. Our other energy sources are either dangerous or finite and in the future the energy rich countries will be the envy of the world. Those that have planned ahead will be able to both supply their own population and sell the surplus to their neighbours. We in the UK are fortunate to live a country with a rich array of untapped renewable energy sources with which the right support can exceed the domestic energy demand and provide a welcome boost to the economy. Whoever finds themselves in power next summer must take advantage of this and secure a brighter future for generations to come.

 

 

 
 

Scotland’s Number 1

Figures for the first six months of 2014, the most recent available data, show that renewables generated 30% more electricity than any other power source in Scotland. In reaching this historic milestone renewable energy overtook nuclear as Scotland’s main source of power.

In total renewable energy instillations generated a record 10.3TWh compared to 7.8TWh from nuclear generation, Scotland’s prior main source of electricity. Coal and gas electricity generation produced 5.6TWh and 1.4TWh respectively over the same six month period.

Niall Stuart, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, said: “The announcement that renewables have become Scotland’s main source of electricity is historic news for our country, and shows the investment made in the sector is helping to deliver more power than ever before to our homes and businesses.

“This important milestone is good news for anyone who cares about Scotland’s economy, our energy security and our efforts to tackle climate change.

“Every unit of power generated from renewables means less carbon emitted from the burning of fossil fuels, decreases our reliance on imported energy and supports jobs and investment in communities across Scotland.

“The renewables industry has come a long way in a short space of time, but there is still plenty of potential for further growth.

“Offshore wind and marine energy are still in the early stages of development but could make a big contribution to our future energy needs if they get the right support from government. That support includes the delivery of grid connections to the islands, home to the UK’s very best wind, wave and tidal sites.”

Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland said wind turbines alone produced enough energy to supply three million homes last month.

He added: “Renewables overtaking nuclear power to become the largest source of electricity is certainly historic, and represents a major step on the way to Scotland becoming a 100 per cent renewable nation.

“Last month, while nuclear reactors were forced to shut because of cracks, Scotland’s renewables were quietly and cleanly helping to keep the lights on in homes across the country. Wind turbines in Scotland alone generated enough electricity to supply three millions homes in the UK – equivalent to 126 per cent of the electricity needs of every home north of the border.

“Put simply, renewables work and are helping to cut climate change emissions and create jobs in Scotland.”

Also commenting on the figures was Scotland’s Energy minister Fergus Ewing who said: “It is vital that appropriate support for renewables in Scotland is maintained following the introduction of electricity market reform in the UK.”

SNP MSP Adam Ingram added “This is a major milestone for Scotland as renewable energy has overtaken nuclear for the first time to become Scotland’s largest source of electricity.

“It underlines the incredible progress that has been made in recent years in developing Scotland’s renewables industry as we move closer to the ambitious targets the Scottish Government has set.

“Renewable energy brings jobs and investment to communities across Scotland and is a hugely important industry to Scotland’s economy.”

When the Scottish Government announced the target of 100% electricity from renewable sources by 2020 it is fair to say that more than few eyebrows were raised. The main question being asked was even with the resources available, could a country like Scotland provide the infrastructure required in order to meet a target like this?

The figures above show that we are well on our way to reaching this target and we can be proud with what we have achieved so far. However if we are to be successful more investment in infrastructure is a must. In previous blogs we have discussed the need for suitable links between the resource rich north of Scotland and the main commercial zones in the south. We are making progress however in order to achieve our goals more commitment must be shown by all involved.

We are proving that with the right mix of development, investment, and infrastructure we can move away from our reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear power however barriers still remain in reaching our ultimate goal. We therefore must remain focussed if we are to reach the target of 100% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020. If we do achieve this not only will we be delivering what was promised but the benefits to both the environment and the economy will have a lasting effect on generations to come.