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.

 

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