Diversity in Renewables

Scottish Renewables have launched a new manifesto for 2016 which it is hoping will be adopted by political parties ahead of this year’s Holyrood election.

Policies within the manifesto Scottish Renewables wish the next Scottish Government to adopt include aiding in the expansion of community owned renewable energy projects, increasing provision for low carbon vehicles, and ensuring good practice in the public sector.

However the main point is that they are looking for a commitment to produce 50% of all Scotland’s energy requirements by 2030 including electricity, heat, and transport from renewable sources.

Scotland is expected to reach its target of 100% of electricity demand generated from renewable sources by 2020 but adding heat and transport energy use to this is a big jump. Currently the target stands at 15% however Scottish renewables have claimed that a new target of 50% would be achievable.

Niall Stuart, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, said: “Scotland’s ambitious climate change and 2020 renewable energy targets have signalled a clear intent for the country to lead the way in the transition to a low-carbon economy.

“Together, renewables now produce the equivalent of 15% of Scotland’s energy use across electricity, heat and transport.

“But with only four years to go, it is now time to look beyond 2020 and for Scotland to set a stretching target for renewables to produce the equivalent of at least 50% of all energy use across electricity, heat and transport by 2030.

“That may seem ambitious but we will be more than half way there by the end of this decade and Sweden – the European leader – already sources half of all energy from renewables today.”

He added: “Achieving this new target will require strategic leadership from the next Scottish government.

“The development of a comprehensive and joined-up energy strategy will allow the sector to maintain its competitiveness as well as spearheading the development and deployment of new technologies.”

Scottish Greens co-convenor Patrick Harvie welcomed the call for more ambitious targets and hoped it would start a transition period in Scotland’s energy production stating “Scottish Greens have long advocated a managed transition away from oil and gas so we seize the opportunity of our renewables and energy efficiency potential, and refocus skills and investment towards these sectors to sustain our economy.

“Our research has already shown how Scotland can employ thousands more people by investing in renewables and oil and gas decommissioning, rather than propping up an industry whose unburnable assets pose a huge economic risk.”

Also speaking at the launch of the manifesto Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland said “The rapid progress Scotland has made on renewable electricity has mainly been down to a strong target, industry support, and strong leadership across successive Scottish governments.”

In other Scottish renewable news approximately £13million per year is being raised for the public purse by leasing out Forestry Commission land for renewable energy instillations. Those currently on land owned by Forestry Commission Scotland produce 900MW of electricity and with a further fifty new developments in the pipeline it is expected to reach 1.2 GW by 2020.

In addition those currently operational contribute over £3million in community benefits per year with this figure expected to top £5million.

Michael Ansell, Head of Estates Development at Forest Enterprise Scotland said: “Through the development of renewable energy on the National Forest Estate, Forest Enterprise Scotland is assisting the Scottish Government with its climate change and renewable electricity targets whilst providing significant income and investment opportunities to communities.”

The most recent figures show a total of 917.4MW of wind power generation capacity and 19.7M of hydro-power capacity generated on Forestry Commission land with two major wind farm developments currently under construction at A’Chruach in Argyll and Bute and Kilgallioch in South Ayrshire adding twenty one and ninety six new turbines respectively.

Six further new wind farms have been approved by planners in the Highlands, Moray, Dumfries and Galloway, Argyll and Bute and West Lothian and an additional eight are currently working their way through the planning process.

Despite the cuts in renewable subsides the Forestry Commission have confirmed that significant development activity is still going on in respect of potential future sites.

Since 2007, 1,292 hectares of forest have been felled to make way for wind turbine developments with 1250 hectares replanted. All leases entered into by renewable energy developments include a reference to the Scottish Government’s woodland removal policy which includes the need for compensatory planting where appropriate.

Dr Richard Dixon Friends of the Earth Director commented: “It is really encouraging to see a Government body making real progress in meeting their renewable energy targets.

“The Forestry Commission appears to be striking a good balance between making space for renewables and replacing any tree cover lost. We know that increasing forested land is crucial to drawing down carbon from the atmosphere.”

By increasing the public purse and generating clean renewable energy whilst maintaining the nation’s tree count there are multiple benefits to the leasing of Forestry Commission land to renewable energy developers.

In addition  due to the nature of the work carried out at these sites, the infrastructure to support heavy good vehicles is already in place, something developers used to the issues regarding accessing 50m plus turbines into remote sites will find very favourable.

Of course not everything is a given, planning has to achieved and all conditions adhered to plus the development must be able to connect to the grid, something which is becoming more difficult as the amount of instillations accessing it rises. However if everything can be put in place the use of Forestry Commission land for renewable projects is something which benefits us all and will go a long way in helping us achieve 50% of all our energy needs from renewable sources.

 

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