Portugal’s remarkable renewable energy milestone

Last week Portugal announced all their electricity needs was generated from renewable sources for more than four consecutive days. The lights were kept on using renewable sources such and wind, hydro, and solar for 107 consecutive hours from the 7th to the 11th of May according to official Portuguese government data. Good management and favourable weather conditions were cited in helping achieve this milestone.

Jean-François Fauconnier, renewables policy co-ordinator at Climate Action Network Europe, speaking to renewables news website Euronews said: “It’s really remarkable for Portugal because it was four days in a row and not only on a weekend but Monday, Tuesday and part of Wednesday, when industry is running at full speed.

“Some member states – Spain, Denmark or Germany – have reached near this level, but only briefly.”

“There’s big public support for wind energy [in Portugal], so that’s become really big in the last few years, and that’s mostly the explanation for why Portugal has come up to 100 percent renewable energy recently,” added Fauconnier.

“Solar power is only a small share of electricity production which is surprising for a country like Portugal, so there’s a lot more potential. Ocean power is also only in its infancy, there are some prototypes of wave power but it’s not being harnessed at the moment.”

Also speaking to renewables news website Euronews Francisco Ferreira, president of Portuguese environmental NGO Zero stated that creating stronger connections with primarily Spain but also the whole of Europe is crucial for helping grow the country’s renewable energy sector.

“Currently we are restricted to increasing renewable power because we may not manage to store and sell that electricity. It’s the reason why it’s really important to have the possibility to export this renewable energy.”

“Yes, there’s pride [in the energy generation milestone]. There are always people that question why the electricity prices are so high and why we had to invest in renewables. Those claims are decreasing because even solar now is not being subsidised.

“As an environmental NGO we want Portugal to stay on the zero emissions track. We have to combine policy with energy efficiency and renewables investment.”

Oliver Joy, spokesman for the Wind Europe trade association said of the announcement: “We are seeing trends like this spread across Europe – last year with Denmark and now in Portugal. The Iberian peninsula is a great resource for renewables and wind energy, not just for the region but for the whole of Europe.”

Also speaking of the news from Portugal James Watson, the CEO of SolarPower Europe said: “This is a significant achievement for a European country, but what seems extraordinary today will be commonplace in Europe in just a few years. The energy transition process is gathering momentum and records such as this will continue to be set and broken across Europe.”

Figures from the Portuguese Renewable Energy Association showed the in 2015 electricity from wind accounted for 22% of the country’s generation total and all renewable sources together accounted for 48%.

The country’s dramatic increase in clean energy production was spurred on by the European Union’s 2020 renewable targets although support schemes for new wind developments were reduced in 2012.

Despite this, Portugal added 550MW of wind capacity between 2013 and 2016, and industry groups now have their sights firmly set on the green energy’s export potential, within Europe and without.

Also figures for 2015 showed that carbon emissions had risen across the EU, including Portugal, from their 2014 levels which led to calls for the government to do more to shift to electricity generated from renewable sources.  

“An increased build-out of interconnectors, a reformed electricity market and political will are all essential,” Joy said. “But with the right policies in place, wind could meet a quarter of Europe’s power needs in the next 15 years.”

In 2015, wind power alone met 42% of electricity demand in Denmark, 20% in Spain, 13% in Germany and 11% in the UK.

Fauconnier added: “The UK and Netherlands are really far off track and will most probably not meet their targets. That’s why they are the states that have been fighting the most against national binding targets for renewables beyond 2020, because they know they are not going to meet them.”

107 hours of continuous 100% renewable energy usage is a remarkable feat and proves that with the right infrastructure such milestones can be achieved. With renewable energy and carbon emission targets driving these records it is likely that more will be set in the coming months.

However despite record breaking generation figures coming from Scotland the UK on a whole lags behind most of Europe in energy generation from renewable sources and carbon emission reductions. The targets set are legally binding and the costs of missing these high. However this is about more than financial penalties, if we do not meet these targets there are social costs as our legacy will be energy uncertainty and a more polluted environment. Is that really what we are offering our future generations?

 

Renewable Energy Opportunity and Innovation

Mars Incorporated, producers of Mars Bars, Snickers, Dolmio, and Pedigree Chum amongst other products have announced that their entire UK operations will now be run on renewable energy. The new Moy twenty turbine wind farm near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands will supply the energy to the confectionery and pet food manufacturer due to a ten year deal agreed with the wind farm operators, Eneco.

The Moy wind farm has an export capacity of 60 megawatts and a potential annual output of over 125,000 megawatt-hours the equivalent of the power used by 34,000 UK households, enough to supply Mars’ twelve UK sites

The agreement is part of the effort Mars have made to reduce its carbon footprint and help support UK climate and carbon emission targets. They have also stated that they are aiming for their entire global operations to be carbon neutral by 2040.

This latest deal follows on from a similar one Mars have completed in the US with a large scale wind farm in Texas providing the company’s US operations with clean renewable energy. The company also recently announced that it had achieved its 2015 target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by a quarter of its 2007 level.

Barry Parkin, chief sustainability officer for Mars Incorporated, said: “We’re proud that the brands that we make here will now be manufactured using renewable electricity, and that we are reducing our carbon footprint in the UK and around the world.

“As with our wind farm in Lamesa, Texas, Moy will contribute significantly to our effort to eliminate fossil fuel energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from our global operations by 2040.

“The Moy Wind Farm is part of our innovative and long-term approach to achieving our goal to be a successful and sustainable business for generations to come.”

Zoisa Walton, country director for Eneco UK, said: “This project is very special to Eneco as it brings together all the elements of our strategy – a renewable ­generating asset, a like-minded partner in Mars, and the opportunity to deliver real benefits to the local community. We are proud to be supplying Mars UK and to be working with them to create a more sustainable future.”

Additional power from the Moy scheme will be offered to local residents via a new green tariff called Highlands and Mearns Wind.

With more and more corporations opting to purchase electricity from the renewable sources the opportunity is there for more developments to benefit from this practice. However more must be done to ensure funding is available in order realise the potential of projects like these.

Also in Scotland this week the Crown Estate announced that it has granted a lease to energy provider Statoil for Hywind at Buchan Deep in the North Sea 25 kilometres from Peterhead, enabling construction to commence on the world’s largest floating wind farm.

The project will consist of five 6 mega-watt turbines which will be anchored in waters much deeper than that of a usual UK offshore wind farm. Instead of fixed foundations the turbines are supported by a floating steel tube filled with ballast, which is then anchored to the seabed.

This is second example of this type of project and follows a successful development of the Norwegian coast in 2009. The Hywind project received planning consent in October 2015 and Statoil took the decision to advance to the construction phase this year.

Initial on-shore works will commence this year with the turbines due to be installed in early 2017 with the first power exported from them towards the end of 2017.

Ronnie Quinn, general manager of The Crown Estate’s Scotland Portfolio said: “We have been working closely with Statoil, Scottish Government and other partners to help bring forward this innovative project which helps consolidate the position of Scotland and the UK as a global leader in the offshore renewables sector.

“Hywind is the first of its kind in the world. Its successful operation will demonstrate the viability of floating wind in deep water locations and bring forward cost reduction techniques that will move the whole sector forward.

“By working to share best practice and deploying our expertise in seabed leasing, we’ve been able to support the development of emerging technologies, from floating wind to tidal current energy, placing Scotland in a very strong position to secure global investment in low carbon energy.”

Leif Delp, project director for the Hywind Scotland project said: “We are very pleased to develop this project in Scotland, in a region with a huge wind resource and an experienced supply chain from oil and gas.

“Through the hard work of industry and supportive government policies, the UK and Scotland is taking a position at the forefront of developing offshore wind as a competitive new energy source.”

Lindsay Roberts, Senior Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables, said: “The granting of Hywind’s lease marks an important milestone for the project.

“Floating offshore wind is an exciting technology with huge, global potential, and it’s great to have this world first in Scottish waters.”

The Hywind project is another positive step forward for renewable energy technology and those involved should be congratulated for achieving this milestone.  However it is crucial for us to continue to adapt and advance in order to make best of the resources available. The potential funding this and similar projects could attain will go a long way in helping future developments  continue to push the boundaries of what is capable in renewable energy generation.

Energy will always be in demand. The cleaner, safer, and more cost effective it is the more it will benefit all of us.

Alternative approaches to renewable energy

Last week Glasgow hosted All Energy the UK’s largest renewable energy exhibition and conference, at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre. The event was held in association with the Renewable Energy Association, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Enterprise, Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group and host city Glasgow. It featured more than 400 exhibitors from 14 countries including Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Indonesia, Italy, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the US as well as all parts of the UK.

The Society for Underwater Technology was the show’s Learned Society Patron, while UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) is All-Energy’s Key International Trade Partner. A further 40 organisations including government departments, professional bodies and trade associations acted as supporters of the two-day annual event.

As well as the exhibitors floor there was several seminars and workshops taking place over the course of the conference with over four hundred and fifty prominent members of the renewable energy industry giving talks. One of who was Scottish Power’s chief corporate officer Keith Anderson who stated “Whoever makes-up the new government here in Scotland, I hope that they will work with us and the UK government to find common ground and a way forward for renewables.

“Yes, we need more flexibility from Westminster to allow the continued development of onshore wind,” he continued. “That doesn’t mean asking for subsidy and it can’t involve trying to embarrass the government into backing down from existing statements or policy. But it does require us to work with them to find a way of creating some clarity and framework for investment.”

He also spoke of the need for a new energy storage strategy with electricity generated by renewable sources being lost due to poor storage capacity. “The most pressing issue is the fact that the world simply does not have enough capacity to store electricity. Again, we are not asking for subsidy to invest in electricity storage. But we do need a government policy that would support our investment. And I see this as an ideal way of finding common ground between Holyrood and Westminster.”

Also speaking at the event was Sir Jim McDonald, principal and vice chancellor at the University of Strathclyde and co-chair of the Scottish Government’s Scottish Energy Advisory Board. He suggested that 2015 has not been a good year due the UK government’s changes to renewable energy policy.

“There was a commitment to nuclear in the long-term and gas in the short-term, but no clear signal for investment, particularly in Scotland. No large-scale onshore wind support and a large reduction in support for solar. There was also an end to the Green Deal (a government subsidy scheme for home insulation) and the cancellation of the zero carbon homes requirement. With colleagues from the Scottish Government, we’ve now started to think about an alternative approach.”

These include reducing heat demands with better insulated homes, promoting low carbon fuels, new energy storage facilities and smart technology to help maximise renewable energy use.

Finally on a positive note Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association, said the sector had grown from a “cottage industry” ten years ago and was now “standing on the precipice of delivering energy cheaper than fossil fuels.”

In other Scottish renewable energy news researchers at Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University have been awarded £200,000 to help establish integrated renewable energy systems in Indonesia. Led by Dr Alan Owen and Dr Leuserina Garniati the Centre for Understanding Sustainable Practice (Cusp) team at Robert Gordon University has been awarded £100,000 through the UK Government’s Newton Fund Institutional Links programme with a further £100,000 from Indonesian government agencies and local non-governmental organisations.

Working in remote coastal and rural areas of Indonesia alongside the Strategic Resources Initiative Office in Indonesia, Universitas Syiah Kuala, and the Agency of Marine and Fisheries Affairs in Aceh, West Nusa Tenggara, and West Papua for the past five years they have helped increase innovation in the country as well as establishing a range of renewable energy options in remote areas.

Dr. Owen said: “Our onsite observations and intensive stakeholder engagement has shown that remote communities in Indonesia have not yet fully embraced the use of sustainable energy technology within locally driven business practices.

“What we hope to do is contribute to the economic development and social welfare of these communities by creating a step change towards appropriately designed and managed sustainable energy systems for maritime productivity.

“To do this, we will look to demonstrate the successful integration of renewable energy systems; apply the appropriate technology; embed training programmes to meet community aspirations; and initiate business models that can create wider benefits.”

One example of this is a project in Aceh where using renewable energy to circulate and aerate water in prawn farms as well as providing electricity to the freezing and packaging facilities has helped provide a high quality product while maintaining low costs. At the same time using locally generated renewable energy reduces pressure on sensitive coastal ecosystems.

Speaking about the project Dr. Garniati said “It is an honour to be able to work in Aceh and learn from their traditional knowledge. Recovering from decades of conflict, military oppression, and a major natural disaster, the Acehnese’ social dynamic and determination for a better future is an inspiration to driving a change.

“We hope that this work will bring positive impact for the farmers and fishermen who are often displaced from their own lands, and give confidence to policy makers that such an initiative can work even in the most challenging environment.”

It is encouraging to see Scottish skills being used is positive ways around the globe and also a timely reminder with Sir Jim McDonald’s words in mind about needing to find alternatives that renewable energy and carbon reductions is not exclusively wind and solar farms.

Although prawn farming is a only tiny part of the U.K. economy it is a perfect example of what can benefit greatly from alternative renewable energy practices. Almost all forms of agriculture and industry in this country can benefit from smart renewable energy solutions and even if the advantage to one particular project is small, when combined with several others the potential benefits would be just what we need to create a low carbon, cleaner, safer, energy secure environment.

 

The Contribution of Scotland’s Onshore Wind Industry

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has announced that the onshore wind sector in Scotland accounted for more than half the total turnover for the entire UK wind energy generation industry.

New figures launched last week state that Scotland’s wind industry generated £1.6 billion (55.9%) in turnover compared to England (£905m), Northern Ireland (£189m) and Wales (£150m). It was however confirmed that although turnover was higher in Scotland the total number of full-time jobs in the sector was lower than in England.

Scotland’s turnover was higher as it generates more electricity from onshore wind however this component of the industry is not labour intensive, especially once the installations are operational. The job count in England is higher due to more design and manufacturing elements both of which are much more labour intensive.

Approximately 3,000 businesses were operating in the UK onshore wind industry in 2014. In total approximately 6,500 people were employed by these businesses, 3,000 in England, 2,500 in Scotland and 500 each in Northern Ireland and Wales.

The Office for National Statistics confirmed that this data has come from a new survey launched in 2015 to closely examine the low-carbon and renewable energy economy in the UK. The first round of data and results was published in December last year and the final results are due to be published this month. The most up to date figures show that onshore wind contributes 3.1% of all UK low-carbon and renewable energy businesses.

Speaking of the data Lang Banks, director of environmental charity WWF Scotland said: “These figures underline the importance of onshore wind to Scotland, both in terms of our economy and in creating jobs.

“However, if we are to enjoy all the benefits that would come from an entirely renewable power sector we need to see a clear energy strategy from [the] next Scottish Government that gets behind this inevitable transition away from thermal power.

“By adopting a strategy that majors on flexibility, demand reduction and storage, Scotland could become the EU’s first fully renewable electricity nation by 2030.

“With opinion polling showing that over 70% of people see clear economic benefits from renewable energy, it’s clear this is an approach that the public could get behind.”

Only a small percentage (3.1%) of businesses operating in the low-carbon and renewable energy economy are in the onshore wind industry compared with, for example, 19.7% involved in solar. The Office for National Statistics stated this was due to many businesses generating electricity from solar panels and receiving feed-in tariffs (FITs), including farmers using their land to generate income from solar panels. The industry also benefited the overall economy, importing over £140million of goods and services in 2014. Turnover in the UK’s onshore wind sector, £2.8bn, was 6.1% of total low-carbon and renewable energy economy turnover and slightly higher than the solar sector (£2.5bn).

According to the Office for National Statistics this was mainly due to more electricity being generated from onshore wind than solar panels. In 2014, a total of 19.1% of UK electricity generation came from renewable sources, with 64.7 terawatt hours (TWh) generated. The onshore wind industry accounted for 28.7% of this, with 18.6 TWh. The solar sector accounted for 6.3% of electricity from renewables, with 4.1 TWh.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Scotland has made great progress in increasing the amount of green electricity in our energy mix and annually we are now producing double the amount we did in 2006.”

Scotland is officially the windiest country in Europe so it should come to no surprise that our onshore wind industry is doing well. However if you compare us to other northern European countries like Denmark, we fall behind in generation levels.

Some of this can be attributed to a lack of infrastructure plus there are many places in Scotland which due to significantly beautiful scenery even us would not want wind turbine located. That said there is belief within the industry that despite what the UK government says we have not reached the point where we no longer need new installations and that there is still many resources that can be exploited.

However without assistance there is no new investment which means no new installations and in turn generation levels plateauing. There will still be a few new wind turbines and solar panels here and there as we edge towards the final cut off of the Feed-in-Tariff however it is with a sense that much more could have been achieved.

Over the past eight years Scotland’s renewable energy generation levels have consistently increased however without new installations it won’t be long before they peak.

As renewable energy generation in Scotland reaches its peak industry giants SSE have launched a new 100% renewable energy contract for businesses stating that all electricity supplied under the contract will come from renewable sources such as wind farms and hydro installations. This will allow large industrial and commercial operations in the UK to report zero greenhouse gas emissions from their purchased electricity.

With reductions to our greenhouse gas emissions a legal obligation the ability for our industries to be able to purchase zero emission electricity is a huge benefit. How many take it up remains to be seen but should the tariff be over-subscribed then surely that is an indication that, despite what some may say, we still require more renewable energy.