Research by industry group Scottish Renewables has revealed that unless support for renewable energy continues the country will fail to achieve its target of producing 100% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
The research showed that electricity demand in Scotland was likely to be 38,256 GWh by 2020 however only 33,122 Gigawatt (GWh) hours is on course to be generated from sources including wind power, biomass and hydroelectricity, 87% of the total.
Proposed onshore and offshore wind developments could make up the shortfall however they are unlikely to go ahead without a long term contract for power.
Scottish Renewables chief executive Niall Stuart said: “The 100% target has provided a powerful focus for government, industry and supporting bodies like Highland and Island Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise, and really put Scotland’s renewable energy industry on the map.
“However, current projections show that we’re not going to meet it unless we get more projects going ahead between now and 2020.
“There are consented schemes onshore and offshore that could get us there, but they can only go ahead if they are allocated a long-term contract for their power.
“The industry had expected an auction round for contracts this autumn, but UK ministers postponed that and we are still unsure if and when that will go ahead – which is inevitably impacting on investor confidence across the industry.”
“Also the delay could fatally undermine the timeline for the projects on Scotland’s main island groups, ending prospects for major developments on the Western Isles and Shetland.”
“It would also raise serious questions about whether the proposed offshore wind projects can make the 2020 deadline. Essentially it is this simple – if we get an allocation round next spring and enough Scottish projects are successful we can still hit the target.”
Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing said: “Recent announcements by the UK government represent an attack on the renewables sector, creating huge uncertainty for investors, developers and communities and undermining Scotland’s ability to fulfil its renewable energy potential.
“Our renewables targets are ambitious and challenging and I am pleased we have seen almost half of our electricity demand coming from renewable sources in 2014. However, I share Scottish Renewables’ concerns that the damaging and premature cuts to support for renewable energy being driven through by the UK government will hamper future progress.”
Lang Banks, director of campaign group WWF Scotland, said “This report makes it clear that the renewables industry urgently needs certainty from the UK government about future funding if it’s to continue to thrive, create jobs and cut emissions in Scotland.
“However, the good news is that there’s more than enough renewables projects in the pipeline to hit our 2020 target if funding is secured. Making progress on reducing our demand for power would also help to bring the target within reach, while cutting fuel bills for consumers at the same time.”
A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “Our priority is providing secure, affordable and reliable energy for hardworking families and businesses.
“Renewables make up around 25% of our electricity generation and we are on track to meet our ambition for 2020. We continue to make progress to meet our overall renewable energy target.”
However despite this the UK’s energy minister Amber Rudd conceded last week that the government does have the right policies to meet its renewable energy targets.
Speaking before a Parliamentary Committee, Ms Rudd confirmed that the Government was set to miss the EU requirement of 15 per cent of the UK’s energy consumption coming from renewables by 2020.
She said: “I am concerned about the work done in transport and in heat to make the additional targets. That’s why I have been writing to other ministers in other departments, particularly transport, to urge them to work across Government to ensure we make this target.”
“We don’t have the right policies, particularly in transport and heat in order to make those 2020 target.”
“There’s insufficient evidence that we are going to make the target for 2020 unless we take certain action. I remain committed to taking action.”
When asked if the government’s decision to cut the subsidies for the renewable energy industry had a bearing on projected shortfall she replied “I don’t believe it has because the mix we would have [is] 30 per cent electricity by 2020 and we are on track to have that despite the cuts to subsidies to renewables.”
She did admit that the government may have to purchase renewable energy from overseas or face the possibility of judicial review and potential fines from the European Court of Justice.
Caroline Lucas Green Party MP said “This Government’s credibility on climate change is lying in tatters. To create jobs and tackle climate change, the UK should be leading the way on clean home-grown energy. Ministers must get a grip and urgently act to ensure we meet our renewable energy targets.
“With public support for wind and solar power consistently strong, and the Paris climate conference coming up, it’s scandalous that this Government continues to undermine what should be a great British industrial success story.”
Since winning the General Election in May the Conservative government have overseen a number of policy changes and cuts which have a had a negative impact on renewable energy generation.
Labour’s Shadow Energy Secretary Lisa Nandy, said “At the very same time the Energy Secretary is telling her colleagues in private we’re not on course to meet our legal target on clean energy, she is cutting wind and solar schemes that could help us to meet it.
“It beggars belief that Ministers are pursuing these regressive steps, and damaging our international reputation on climate change, less than a month before the important Paris Summit.”
There is a gaping hole in the government’s argument. They claim that the subsidy cuts to wind and solar have no bearing on potentially missing the binding targets as we are on course to meet the target of 30% of electricity generated from renewable sources. This however is a government target and the EU target could be achieved by increasing our generating capacity in wind and solar.
At present our two alternatives are either to import expensive renewable energy from overseas or to pay large fines for missing the target, both of which are likely to be higher than reinstating the renewable energy subsidies. This invokes the following question: why is our government willing to spend more than the subsidy cuts to meet our EU targets and ultimately who is going to pay for this?