The Future of Wind Power in Scotland

In last week’s blog we wrote of the record breaking run wind farms in Scotland went on from January to April 2015. New analysis of wind data commissioned by WWF Scotland and provided by WeatherEnergy has confirmed that wind turbines in June in Scotland provided 620,144MWh of electricity to the National Grid, out of total consumption of 1,891,536MWh.

This represents an increase of 120% compared with June 2014, when wind energy provided 281,735MWh, WWF Scotland said.

Throughout the month wind turbines in Scotland provided enough electricity to power 1.7 million households. WeatherEnergy’s data analysis confirmed that wind generated 33% of Scotland’s electricity needs for the entire month. The data also confirmed that electricity generated from wind could supply at least 100% of Scotland’s households on six of the thirty days in June.

Solar figures were also analysed and WWF Scotland confirmed that on average throughout the month, sunshine provided 80% of the electricity requirements for households with solar panels. When broken down into individual areas this came out as 109% of the electricity needs of an average household in Aberdeen, 105% in Edinburgh, 98% in Inverness, and 89% in Glasgow.

Regarding the data WWF Scotland director Lang banks said “While much of the attention may have been focused on the welcome summer sunshine, June also turned out to be an astonishing month for wind power in Scotland. Thanks to a combination of increased capacity and stronger winds, output from turbines more than doubled compared to the same period last year.

“These figures show just how much wind power has gone from strength to strength. However, wind power in Scotland could and should be playing an even bigger role in helping to reduce climate emissions from the power sector.”

“We therefore hope that the forthcoming Government onshore wind summit can find ways forward to help ensure this clean energy source can meet its true potential.”

Karen Robinson, of WeatherEnergy, said: “While good for generating power from the sun, the summer months often see a dip in the output from wind turbines. And, while output was certainly lower than the month of May, this June saw a massive jump in output when compared to last year.

“While the data confirms Scotland is knocking out of the park on wind power, it also confirms it’s no slouch when it comes to solar power too.”

SNP MSP Mike Mackenzie said the figures released today showed Scotland had a “real opportunity to be a world leader on renewable energy”.

“This excellent progress must not be put at risk by the reckless approach of a Tory government with scant regard for Scotland’s interests,” he added.

Mr Mackenzie said: “These outstanding new figures are a welcome demonstration of the strength of Scotland’s renewables industry, with a 120% boost on the previous year’s figure showing the incredible strides Scotland is making in producing clean, sustainable energy – and showing the vital role green energy can play in meeting our energy needs.

“This is exactly why the UK Government’s decision to cut onshore wind subsidies funded through the Renewables Obligation is so dangerous – which could see a loss of investment of up to £3 billion, put more than 5,000 jobs at risk and put at risk the excellent progress Scotland has made on renewables in recent years.”

Although the renewable energy industry in Scotland is relatively new compared to the fossil fuel industry it is maturing at a good pace. The clean energy that it is providing to the nation on a regular basis is helping us both protect our environment and meet EU targets on carbon emissions.

However this has not been achieved without the help of subsidies. All industries tend to get subsidised to some level however it is the burgeoning industries that require them the most. In terms of the renewable energy industry the technology required new and as a result is extremely expensive. Add to that the costs of development including construction and maintenance and the project is not cost effective.

A desire to create a cleaner environment plus a need to meet specific targets on carbon emissions with the additional benefit of long term savings for the consumer in order to get the industry moving the UK government offered subsides on renewable energy projects.  These subsidies attracted developers and the industry started to grow.

Over the past ten years this growth has continued and in the last three has picked up considerably. Therefore we are seeing record generation taking place throughout the country. So is this the time to end the subsidies? The UK government certainly think so with their recent policy change however their reasons seem more political.

Our thoughts are unsurprisingly different. This is because at present the industry has yet to become cost effective. The subsidies that wind energy projects receive have been decreasing as the technology becomes less expensive and this reduction was planned to continue over the coming years ending up at zero. However we are not in that position at present so the eradication of the subsidies will see the industry in terms of new projects grind to a halt.

Generation records may be getting broken however the UK is still behind on its carbon reduction targets. Earlier this year we were given a warning by the EU that we were in danger of not making our targets and if not would face penalties. Wind power (including the subsidies) is the most cost effective way of reducing carbon emissions. The eradication of the subsidies and the subsequent lack of new projects will make achieving our targets much more difficult and much more costly.

Had the industry been allowed to continue with new projects developed and those established generating clean renewable energy, the subsidies would have been phased out gradually. This would have a led to a robust industry operating with efficient and cost effective technology. In turn this would have meant energy savings for the consumer as we would have been creating our own clean cheap energy and would not have to rely on fossil fuels being purchased from an ever diminishing overseas market.

At present our energy future is not secure and unless policies are rethought and changes made then this will continue to be the case.

 

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