Record levels of support for wind power in Scotland

Support for wind power in Scotland has increased in the past two years in line with a similar increase in development. A new YouGov survey commissioned by Scottish Renewables found that 71% of the Scottish population want wind power to remain within the country’s energy mix compared with 64% in February 2013.

Scots aged 18-24 gave the highest backing with 81% agreeing that they want the continued development of wind power in the country. The lowest supportive age group was the over 55s however a majority (65%) were still in support. In terms of location the south of Scotland came up the lowest with 64% whilst Glasgow and the Lothians were the highest, both posting 79% support.

Over the same two year period from the previous survey to this one onshore wind capacity in Scotland has increased by 20%.

Scottish Renewables senior policy manager Joss Blamire speaking at the announcement of the poll stated “These poll results highlight once again that not only do the vast majority of Scots support wind power, but the number who do is actually increasing.

“The wind energy sector is thriving in Scotland, providing jobs, investment and helping to tackle climate change — and these figures show it’s doing all of this with the Scottish public right behind it.

“We are often told by a vocal minority of objectors that Scots don’t like wind power but this poll shows there is absolutely no evidence to support this — in fact, quite the opposite.”

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “It’s fantastic news to see the growth in Scotland’s onshore wind capacity is matched by increased public support for this clean energy source.

“It’s clear that the public know and like the fact that wind power is helping to cut carbon, create jobs and keep the lights on.”

Welcoming the poll, Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: “Scottish Government policy on onshore wind farms strikes a careful balance between maximising Scotland’s huge green energy potential and protecting some of our finest scenic landscapes — planning authorities help to guide wind farms to the best places and when wind farms don’t meet strict planning guidelines they are rejected.

“Wind power, as part of a wider, balanced energy mix in Scotland, has a pivotal role in the delivery of Scotland’s 2020 targets, with the latest statistics showing that Scotland is on track for another record year of renewable generation in 2014, with generation up 21% over the first three quarters of the year.”

Also local and community ownership of wind farms is increasing in Scotland. Energy Minister Fergus Ewing announced last week that there had been an increase of 27% in community and locally owned wind farms in 2014 taking the total output capacity of these types of developments to 360MW.

The Scottish Government has a target of 500MW of wind power in local and community ownership by 2020 and recently announced a new community energy programme with the aim to increase uptake and to ensure that local communities have the opportunity to achieve the maximum benefits from this project type.

“By creating a system that focuses on local energy, we can help tackle some of our most pressing issues – from security of supply, to increasing costs – and stimulate local economic renewal,” Mr. Ewing said.

The rise of renewable energy and in particular wind power in Scotland is a modern day success story. From the hydro-electric revolution in the mid-20th century to having two of the three largest wind farms in Europe what has been achieved for a relatively small nation has been remarkable. Being the windiest country in Europe helps but that alone is not the reason why we are where we are today.

There has been a supportive Scottish government that has pushed and promoted renewable energy throughout their terms. They have set ambitious targets which have driven the industry and brought in much needed investment.

In addition the UK government set up subsidies which also attracted investment and gave the industry a much needed boost. The icing on the cake is that public support is at an all time high. So with a growing industry supporting thousands of jobs, a supportive government and high public support the future for renewables and in particular wind power in Scotland looks secure but is it?

With a UK General Election due in May and at least two of the major parties already having stated they will put a stop to all new wind projects there is an air of uncertainty surrounding the industry however for the reasons above there should not be. In general terms anything above 50% public support is seen as a success. The level of support at which wind power in Scotland is at therefore should be taken as message by those in power that the people of Scotland want to see it continue to flourish in our country.

 

Worldwide Carbon Emissions Stall

New data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) has indicated that global emissions of carbon dioxide from the energy sector stalled in 2014. This is the first time in over 40 years that there has been a halt or reduction in CO2 emissions that was not linked to an economic downturn.

Global emissions of carbon dioxide stood at 32.3 billion tonnes in 2014, unmoved from 2013. The initial IEA data suggest that efforts to alleviate climate change may be having a more pronounced effect on emissions than had previously been thought.

Fatih Birol, IEA Chief Economist said “This gives me even more hope that humankind will be able to work together to combat climate change, the most important threat facing us today.”

According to the IES, the stop in carbon dioxide emissions growth is due to changing energy consumption patterns in China and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. In 2014 China rapidly increased electricity generation from renewable sources including wind, solar, and hydro and reduced the burning of coal. In OECD economies, recent efforts to promote more sustainable growth – including greater energy efficiency and more renewable energy – are producing the desired effect of decoupling economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions.

“This is both a very welcome surprise and a significant one,” added Birol who was recently named to take over from Maria van der Hoeven as the next IEA Executive Director. “It provides much-needed momentum to negotiators preparing to forge a global climate deal in Paris in December: for the first time, greenhouse gas emissions are decoupling from economic growth.”

Only on three occasions in the past 40 years over which the IEA have been collecting data on carbon dioxide emissions has there been a reduction or halt compared to the following year’s results all of which were associated with a global economic downturn; 1980, 1992, and 2009. Last year the global economy grew by 3%.

Further information and details on the data as well as analysis will b e included in an IEA Special Report on Energy and Climate due to be released in London on the 15th of June 2015. The report will aim to provide governments and policy makers with in depth analysis of national climate pledges in the context of the recent reduction in fossil fuel prices. It will also suggest practical policy measures to advance climate goals without reducing economic growth.

Speaking of the publication of this new data Maria van der Hoeven, IEA Executive Director said “The latest data on emissions are indeed encouraging, but this is no time for complacency – and certainly not the time to use this positive news as an excuse to stall further action.”

The reduction in worldwide carbon emissions is fantastic news and with no economic downturn to explain this fall responsibility falls at least in part to renewable energy. With worldwide targets to be met on carbon emissions reduction to be met over the coming years governments will be delighted to see this fall and the positive impact that renewable energy is having in contributing towards it.

However we in the UK are in danger of failing to capitalise on this if we do not continue to promote and develop renewable energy. The current UK government has already stated that should it win the next election, taking place in May 2015, then it plans to scrap all new onshore wind projects.

Whilst we at ILI Energy believe in a strong and varied energy mix, onshore wind is one of more the further developed and therefore less costly types of renewable energy generation. To halt all future developments would be a backwards step at a time when we need to push on and continue the good work done so far.

The benefits of renewable energy are proven and tangible. The reduction of carbon emissions is not surprising but the rate at which it is happening is a very pleasant find. A strong and growing renewable energy industry will go a long way in helping us reach our carbon emission reduction targets.

Hydro-electric Power in Scotland

Scotland has a rich history of hydro electric power generation dating back to the early 20th century but it was after World War II where things really took off on a national scale. Long before our knowledge of climate change had determined our future energy path Scotland experienced a renewable energy revolution with a number of new hydro electric facilities springing up, mainly in the highlands, serving both local communities and the entire nation.

At present there are over 100 commercial hydro developments operating in Scotland and that is about to change again as a new large facility including a damn is set to be built on the River Allt Coire Chaorach, near Crianlarich.

The development which is likely to cost £8.5million will generate up to 8GwH of electricity per year adding to Scotland’s target of producing 100% of its electricity needs by 2020. It is also likely to create a number of permanent jobs and bring sustainable economic growth to the surrounding area.

Jane Wilson of Jewson Tools, who helps young people into jobs in the construction and sustainability industries, spoke of the project: “It’s these kinds of projects that provide great amounts of jobs in local areas. The more we strive for renewable energy, the more jobs we will create; it’s that simple.”

Most of the initial capital will come in the form of an investment from the Green Investment Bank. The bank’s chairman Lord Smith of Kelvin also speaking about the project stated: “The UK is in the process of transforming how it generates its power. In future we will see less reliance on a small number of large power stations and more focus on a network of smaller, locally generated, renewable sources of power. Hydro is one example of how we can do this and we are delighted to play our part in helping this market grow, bringing investment to rural communities along the way.”

At some point in 2015 it is expected that Scotland will reach the halfway mark in attaining its target of 100% of electricity generated from renewable sources.  In the first six months of 2014 the renewable energy output increased by 30% and figures for the full year are expected soon. In 2013 it sat at 46% of total output and 39.9% in 2012.

This shows just how far we have come when you consider that only as recently as 2010 Scotland failed to meet its climate targets as greenhouse emissions increased by almost 2%.

Most of Scotland’s renewable energy comes from onshore wind, it is an industry which has flourished in recent years and has played a major role in putting Scotland on target for its renewable energy goals however we cannot underestimate the contribution that hydro has made and will continue to do so.

Like many of the renewable energy sources Scotland has an abundance of hydro resource which can be utilised to provide us with clean energy for the foreseeable future. With 2020 fast approaching and the 100% of electricity from renewable sources target that it brings all generation sources must be developed to their full potential.

A recent survey by Renewable UK has created a buzz in the UK Renewables industry. Two thousand of the UK general public were asked a series of questions relating to wind power in the UK and the responses have certainly risen more than a few eyebrows.

The most eye-catching of the findings was that the average estimate of what wind farm subsidies add to the typical duel fuel energy bill of £1,300 is £259, approximately 20%. The actual amount is around £18 per year, approximately 1.5% of the overall bill.

Other findings were equally striking. Those asked tended to misjudge how much public support wind farms have in the UK regardless of whether they supported them themselves. The response put support of wind farms at an average of 40% whereas the latest government survey puts support for offshore wind at 74% and onshore wind at 68%.

Polling also showed that people tend to underestimate the output of wind turbines with two thirds of those asked thinking the turbines generate electricity less than half of the time however depending on wind speeds they generate at between 70% and 85% of the time.

Finally 75% of those polled overestimated the speed of wind required for a turbine to generate electricity with the average figure being 14mph when the actual average figure is 7mph, not much more than a light breeze.

Maria McCaffery chief executive of RenewableUK said: “These independent polls show there considerable misconceptions about the cost of supporting wind energy – it’s much lower than people think, at just 35p a week per household. It’s also revealing to see that wind has almost double the amount of public support than was estimated.”

She concluded by claiming “the loud voices of a small minority” were trying to distort the facts.

The results from the survey are very interesting and there can be no doubt that there are very loud voices in a small minority distorting the facts about wind power. However with the majority of the populace supporting wind turbines the question has to be asked why are the facts being distorted? Many within the industry believe that some in the political world are pandering to their donors as opposed to listening to their voters.

We within the industry however know that these inflated subsidy figures, understated output figures, and the alleged reduction of public support are not true so it is our responsibility to inform and educate everyone the facts about wind power and renewable energy. It is time our majority gained a loud voice.

 

Renewable Energy can replace Nuclear Power

Over the past few months we have written about the rise of renewable energy in the UK’s energy mix. In the first half of 2014 it was the largest provider of electricity in Scotland, in November 2014 renewable energy provider more than 100% of Scotland’s capacity, and its high levels of generation has significantly reduced our carbon emissions, meaning we are on track to meet the EU targets on energy production.

As these generations figures continue to rise, the importance of renewables position in the energy mix becomes more apparent. With the growth of renewable energy and the decline or stagnation of other areas of energy generation renewables are fast catching up with the more traditional forms of energy production.

According to the Office of National Statistics the amount of renewable produced energy in terms of the total energy generated in the UK has more than doubled from 6.8% in 2010 to 14.9% in 2013. At the same time nuclear power provided 19% of the country’s electricity. However this is down from its mid-90s peak of 25%, unsurprising when you factor in that since 1995 no new nuclear power stations have been built in the UK. At this current rate of change renewable energy will overtake nuclear in the UK energy stakes within a couple of years.

The renewable energy mix is itself dominated by onshore wind with a third of all renewable energy in the UK coming from this source in 2013. Behind it and gaining ground fast is offshore wind at 21% and a new development approved last week consisting of 400 turbines – making it the world’s largest offshore wind farm – at Dogger Bank in the North Sea will increase this amount by 65% of its current generating capacity of 4000MW.

Ed Davey Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change speaking at the launch of these latest figures stated that since 2010 the UK has invested over £14billion in wind turbines building an industry which now supports over 35,000 jobs. He also highlighted the reduction in reliance of fuel imports that renewables in the UK has given us in addition to cleaner energy.

Gordon Edge of Renewable UK, which represents the wind and marine energy industry said “Wind has already outperformed nuclear on several days over the past 12 months. The gap is closing fast. Renewables are set to overtake nuclear on a permanent basis by the end of next year.”

Other contributors towards the UK renewable energy mix include bio-energy, the burning of biomass, hydroelectricity, and finally solar power which despite being visually prominent, lags behind the other sources.

However, even with all of these renewable sources almost two thirds of the UK’s electricity comes from fossil fuels, 37% from coal and 28% from gas.

I mentioned last week that despite being on target to reach our EU energy production targets most of our heat energy still comes from natural gas and almost all of our transport from oil. This puts more pressure on electricity to come from renewable sources in order to make up any deficit heating and transport create.

In 2013 (when these figures were collated from) the UK government announced that the country’s first new nuclear power station in a generation will be built at the existing power site at Hinckley Point in Somerset. Other areas were earmarked for further potential new nuclear power stations however none of these, including the new station at Hinckley Point, will start generating power until 2023 at the earliest.

So is nuclear really an answer? Although it is carbon free and therefore will help reduce the country’s carbon emissions it is not classed as renewable and therefore does not add towards the EU renewable generation targets. Also  the recent Fukushima disaster in Japan has highlighted the cost of nuclear should things go wrong  which in turn has reduced its public approval to an all time low. Add to that the nuclear legacy of dirty waste which takes thousands of years to break down surely we should leaving this energy source to continue its decline while promoting others?

By the time that any of the new nuclear plants in the UK are generating electricity renewable energy will have supplanted it in our energy mix. Renewable energy reduces our carbon emissions without the long term cost that comes with nuclear. The cost of renewable energy generation is reducing with each passing year and will soon be cheaper than nuclear. Renewable energy technology is reliable and is proving that it can cope with the demands placed upon it by the grid.

It should all add up to more new renewable energy developments and the continued reduction of nuclear power generation in the UK. Whether it does or not will depend on our government and their energy policies.