Renewable energy in Scotland received a boost last week when the results of a new survey confirmed that almost four out of five Scots support the continuation of renewable energy developments including wind turbines and solar arrays. Also almost two thirds of those polled want the Government to actively tackle climate change and implement policies to cut carbon emissions.
Other questions in the poll commissioned by Scottish Renewables revealed that only 26% support fracking, 45% want to see new nuclear power stations, and as little as 14% believe that that Government should not be seeking solutions to climate change. In total 1,008 people took part in the survey.
Jenny Hogan, director of policy at Scottish Renewables, said: “These poll results illustrate the strength of support for renewables among Scotland’s electorate. It is the only energy option that a majority of potential Scots voters say they would support.
“I believe this survey reflects the fact that most people in Scotland accept we must continue to change the way we power and heat our homes and businesses in order to tackle climate change.
“Renewable electricity generation in Scotland has doubled in recent years and we hope that all the main political parties will continue to back the growth of our sector after May’s general election — which certainly looks like the wish of potential Scottish voters.
WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “It’s great to see that the vast majority of the public in Scotland want to see the next UK government continue to take action on climate change as well as deliver more renewables.
“When given the choice, it’s clear that the public would rather see more clean renewables rather than polluting fossil fuels of nuclear power.
“If we’re to realise the full potential of our renewable resource, it’s vital that the next UK government listens to the public and does all that it can to ensure Scotland is not held back from harnessing the power of its winds, waves, and tides.”
Renewable energy became Scotland’s largest energy source in 2014 and the industry currently employs 11,000 people. The Scottish Government has set a target of 100% of the country’s electricity supply from renewable sources by 2020 and is well on its way to achieving this.
The country is one of the world’s richest renewable energy sources with 25 per cent of all of Europe’s tidal power potential and 10 per cent of Europe’s wave potential. However there remains concerns over the safety of Scotland’s nuclear power plants. Torness power station in East Lothian was subject to scrutiny recently over the revelation a radiation leak was detected at the 27-year-old plant last month. A radiation leak was also reported at the Dounreay nuclear plant in November.
SNP MSP Dennis Robertson argued that while Scotland has made significant progress, there has not been enough support from Westminster governments.
“There is no doubt we have made strong progress in Scotland in growing our renewables sector, but this has come in the face of a Westminster government that has been determined to pursue horrendously expensive nuclear energy at the expense of supporting renewable energy,” Robertson said. “That is the wrong approach and threatens the future of Scotland’s energy industry and the jobs that rely upon it. It is long past time for Westminster to play its full part in supporting Scotland’s renewables sector.”
There was more good news for renewable energy on a global scale in a report published by the UN Environment Programme (Unep) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
New renewable generating capacity broke the 100GW barrier in 2014 and global investment in renewable energy during 2014 increased by 17% from 2013 levels to US$270bn (£183bn). Increased cost efficiency and lower risk have been cited as important factors in attracting new levels in investment.
Eric Usher, lead editor of the Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment said “We have a continuation of what we have seen in previous years, which is a concentration of investment in two sectors – solar and wind.
“Solar was up 29% to US$150bn, while wind was up 11% to almost US$100bn. The other sectors did less well, some are maturing but others have yet to mature.
“Technologically, solar is doing well at both small-scale (roof tops) and larger scale.
“The big story in wind, in developed economies – Europe particularly – is large-scale off-shore, which had a very good year receiving US$18.6bn in financing in Europe alone.”
Renewable sources accounted for approximately 9.1% of the world’s electricity generation. The report calculated that this contributed to saving of 1.3 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions, almost twice emitted by the global airline industry had the electricity been generated from fossil fuels.
The popularity of renewable energy with both investors and the general public should be the driving force that safeguards the continued growth of the industry and in turn the reduction of our carbon emissions. However we are now in a period of uncertainty and government support is necessary to ensure this happens. There will be a General Election in the UK next month and some of the competing parties have spoken out against new renewable energy developments. 2014 was an excellent year for renewable energy both nationally and globally but we cannot allow our progress to stagnate now, the outcome is far too important.