Carbon emission reductions in Scotland

A new report based on a poll by climate charity 10:10 states that 80% of Scots are in favour of onshore wind farms, slightly higher when compared to 73% of the rest of the UK. Considering the number of wind turbines in the Scotland this may be viewed as some as surprising.

Speaking of the findings of the poll WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said “It’s great to know that support in Scotland for renewables, especially onshore wind, remains at such high levels. The reality is that when given a choice the public will always support clean renewables over polluting fossil fuels or nuclear power.

“As well as powering our homes and businesses, renewables are helping to cut carbon and support over 20,000 jobs across the country. With such great public support, Ministers should press on to ensure Scotland becomes the EU’s first fully renewable electricity nation.”

The renewable energy industry in Scotland employs 21,000 people and invested £910m into the Scottish economy in 2015.

Also a new statistic on renewable electricity from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has shown that more than 13 million tonnes of CO2 emissions has been displaced by renewable generation technologies including wind turbines, solar and hydro in 2015.

13 million tonnes equated to 28% of Scotland’s carbon emission output in 2014.

Speaking prior to a Westminster reception held by Scottish Renewables their chief executive Niall Milner spoke of the benefits of renewable energy generation and insisted more is still to be done.

“These new figures show the ever-growing contribution of renewable energy to the fight against climate change.

“Onshore wind has been behind much of the rise in renewable electricity capacity in the last ten years, but we expect both onshore wind and solar to be excluded from the next round of auctions for contracts for low carbon power.

“Both technologies could make a significant contribution to meeting our future climate change targets, keeping bills down for consumers and to driving industrial activity. For all those reasons we believe that both should be able to bid for contracts for clean power in future government auctions.

“We also have considerable headway to make in the decarbonisation of our heat and transport sectors, which together make up almost 80% of the energy we use in Scotland.

“The economic, environmental and social benefits of green energy are clear to see. Climate change means we have to decarbonise our economy and renewable energy can, will and should play a key role in achieving that. But we need supportive policies at Westminster and Holyrood if we are to continue the growth of the sector.”

Lang Banks, speaking of the carbon emission reductions said “It’s fantastic news to learn that record amounts of climate-damaging carbon emissions have been avoided in Scotland thanks to increasing renewable electricity generation.

“These figures highlight just one example of the many social and economic benefits that have come from shifting our electricity system to a clean renewable one. However, with electricity generation now accounting for less than 25 per cent of Scotland’s climate change emissions, it’s now time to begin to reap the same benefits by increasing the use of renewables in our heat and transport sectors.”

The extensive reduction of Scotland’s carbon emissions shows that renewable energy generation is working where we need it most, creating a cleaner and safer environment for us to live in. This in turn has helped it establish a strong positive feeling with the Scottish people.

However now is not the time to rest on our laurels. Much more can be done to continue to increase our renewable output and reduce our carbon emissions. We have fantastic resources which should be utilised in the best way possible to continue generating energy whilst reducing emissions.

80% of Scots are in favour of onshore wind farms which does not sound like they do not want anymore turbines to us. However the government has to be listening and as Mr Stuart said above has to commit to favourable policies in order to allow the industry to grow and benefits to be reaped.

Meeting our carbon emission targets

A new report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has stated that emissions targets will not be met unless there is implementation of “a credible new strategy and a much stronger policy framework” from the government with the committee claiming that “Action is required now to reduce emissions and to prepare for future decisions.”

The report targets the decarbonisation of heating as a major obstacle needed to be overcome and offers heat pumps, a hydrogen gas network via the existing gas grid and district heating networks as potential long term solutions. However it did not offer what the best balance of new technologies would be stating that more evidence is required about costs, industry’s capacity to deliver and preferences of households and businesses.”

If the UK target of eliminating emissions from heat by 2050 is to be achieved then “a national programme to switch buildings on the gas grid to low-carbon heating would need to begin around 2030.”

Therefore a decision on which route should be taken and invested in must be made by 2025 with the failure to make a clear choice potentially adding to future costs due to “suboptimal infrastructure development or overlaps between the roll-out of different low-carbon heat solutions in a given area.”

The committee however did state that there is still time for “experimentation over the next decade or so to develop the best strategy” but warned against a wait and see policy.

The report suggests that preparations can now be made regarding the decision:  For heat pumps this will require that a market of sufficient size is developed to enable increased roll-out in future. For hydrogen, there will need to be pilots and demonstrations of sufficient scale to fully understand the potential challenges… Before a decision to proceed with hydrogen, it is essential that CCS is under active development in the UK, in order to provide a low-carbon route to producing hydrogen at scale.”

It has also suggested that a number of short term steps can be taken to start the emission cutting process right now including for example fitting heat pumps in homes that are off the gas grid, installing low-carbon district heating networks in densely populated areas, and increasing injections of biomethane into the gas grid adding “these opportunities can be taken within funding that has already been agreed provided policy measures are well-targeted and we learn the lessons from previous UK and international experience.”

Improvements should also be made to the energy efficiency of the current housing stocks and that new homes should be built to be highly energy efficient with new builds future proofed for low-carbon heating systems to avoid costly retrofitting.

Finally the committee called on the government to set “clear goals for improving efficiency and rolling out low-carbon heating” in its emissions reductions plan for meeting the fourth and fifth carbon budgets.

Scottish Renewables director of policy Jenny Hogan said: “Already behind on its climate and renewable energy targets, we agree government needs a clear strategy to decarbonise heat – which makes up almost half of the energy used in the UK. As part of a package of support government must now reform the Renewable Heat Incentive to ensure the roll-out of low-carbon heat networks and technologies.”

As well as these large scale projects numerous smaller scale projects will also be crucial in helping is reduce our carbon emissions. They may not seem to do a great deal on their own but combined they will all add up to take a significant chunk out of our emissions total.

One such scheme is attempting to make Point and Sandwick on the Outer Hebridean island of Lewis the UK’s first LED community. Already approximately 140 homes have applied for the free lighting offered by the scheme.

Tighean Innse Gall are working with community windfarm charity Point and Sandwick Trust on the five-year project to convert the whole peninsula to energy-efficient lighting in a bid to tackle fuel poverty in the area while also addressing the issue of climate change.

The LED Energy Communities project officially launched a few months ago and since then project officer Dan Morrison has been working on replacing the lightbulbs in houses and carrying out energy efficiency surveys while he is there.

The Climate Challenge Fund are also supporting the project in this its first year. It is anticipated the project will grow to two staff for its second and third years, before dropping back again to one. Dan said: “There are about 1,200 homes in the Point and Sandwick area and the plan is to reach them all in the next five years. “The people are nice and have been very receptive to the project.” He added: “Point and Sandwick Trust have been great to work with. You’ve got strong people there on the board and they are so focused on doing something, not just talking about it.”

Point and Sandwick Trust general manager Donald John MacSween said this LED Energy Communities Project was close to their heart, as the charity behind the Beinn Ghrideag wind farm — the biggest community wind farm in the UK and winner of the ‘best community project’ at the Scottish Green Energy Awards last year. Donald John said: “Fuel poverty is a major problem in the Western Isles and we are top of the national league of fuel poverty statistics. “A wet, windy climate, ageing population, low wages, a significant number of properties below the national ‘tolerable standard’ and above-average prices for fuel of all types all combine to make fuel poverty a major issue.

“In all the extensive community consultations we undertook in Point and Sandwick over the last few years the fuel poverty issue loomed large.  We determined to do something practical to address the problem by going into partnership with TIG to make Point and Sandwick the first LED community in the UK. “Point and Sandwick Trust have a strong commitment to helping people in direct, practical ways, and by helping to reduce consumers’ carbon footprint we are partly fulfilling our long-term aim of moving to a renewable energy future for Point and Sandwick.”

Whether it is large macro projects such as a reworking of the gas network or micro ones such as the LED lighting initiative in Lewis all will aid in the reduction of our carbon emissions. However, as confirmed in the report, we have to act now to ensure that we are ready when the time comes to implement the new targets.

A number of key decisions must be made and plans drawn up to ensure that all is completed in time. Without this we run the risk of not making our targets incurring massive fines and still having to reduce the emissions anyway or face more sanctions. Therefore now is the time to start preparation on the largest of projects whilst implementing many of the smaller ones as soon as possible.

At the end of the day it’s not just about meeting targets. Reducing carbon emissions will help create a cleaner, safer environment for all of us to live in and who wouldn’t want to prepare for that?

 

Scotland’s future is renewable

A new report from global technology consultancy Ricardo Energy and Environment has suggested that is possible for 50% of Scotland’s energy requirements for transport, electricity, and heat from renewables by 2030.

The report “The energy of Scotland: Heating moving and powering our lives from now until 2030” based in independent analysis states that Scotland’s climate targets could be achieved via renewable generation by the end of 2030.

The report offers the following actions that should be adopted by the Scottish Government in order to achieve this and that by 2030;

  •         Two-fifths of Scotland’s homes will be heated from renewable sources, with a Warm Homes Act helping ensure access to cleaner, more affordable heat;
  •         A national energy efficiency programme will have helped reduce energy use in homes to 30% lower than that today and millions of homes across the country will have been insulated;
  •         One in three cars, and half of all buses, will be electric, in line with the long-term need to phase out fossil-fuel vehicles entirely;
  •         Scotland’s electricity will be, almost entirely, generated from renewables, with excess generation exported to our neighbours;
  •         Other welcome benefits would include the creation of new jobs; warmer, healthier homes; and cleaner air helping reduce the burden on the NHS.

The report has been launched to coincide as the Scottish Government develop a new energy strategy based on manifesto pledges regarding the 50% renewable energy market.

Speaking at the report launch Lang Banks WWF Scotland Director said “This report shows that a 50 per cent renewables target for all our energy needs by 2030 is not only needed, but that it is achievable. Ministers should now make this a Scottish Government target and bring in the policies needed in its forthcoming energy strategy. Doing so would enable Scotland to enjoy the many economic and social benefits that the report suggests would take place as result of generating half of all our energy needs from renewables.

“Scotland is already seeing the economic and social benefits of shifting our electricity system to clean, climate-friendly, renewables generation. However, with electricity accounting for just one quarter of our energy use, it’s time to begin to reap the same benefits by increasing the use of renewables in our heat and transport sectors.

Colin McNaught, Managing Consultant at Ricardo Energy & Environment said “Our analysis provides the most sophisticated model yet for what Scotland’s energy system will look like in 2030 if climate targets are to be met in the most cost-effective way. A major transformation across all the energy sectors will need to take place, but the technologies are already available and Scotland has the renewable resources to supply them.”

Dave Pearson, Director of Star Renewables and expert on heat said “Heat has for too long been the neglected area of energy policy, and it is imperative that we move forward in this less familiar but vital area of our energy use. Technologies such as large heat pumps are ready, but to engage consumers in kicking our fossil fuel habits and capture the benefits including new jobs that being a leader in low carbon heat would bring, the Scottish Government needs much bolder policies to ensure adoption in new and retrofit situations.”

Colin Howden, Director of Transform Scotland and expert on transport said “When it comes to climate emissions, Scotland’s transport sector is stuck in neutral, with emissions barely reduced on where they were in 1990. Yet there is a lot more that could be done. We need to level the playing field so that public transport, cycling and walking can compete with the private car, and have a long-term strategy that clearly shows how all transport will shift over to low-carbon.”

Alexa Morrison, Senior Policy Officer at RSPB Scotland said: “We are pleased to be joining WWF Scotland and Friends of the Earth Scotland in calling on Scottish Government to set a 50% renewable energy target for 2030. Bringing down the emissions of our whole energy system, including strong action on heat and transport, is crucial to protect our natural environment from climate change. We know that, if we plan the roll out of renewables carefully to avoid our most sensitive places for wildlife, we can meet these targets in harmony with nature.”

Dr Richard Dixon, Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland said “This report shows that investing in tackling climate change brings many other benefits, including helping create jobs in low-carbon sectors, improving people’s living conditions and cleaning up the toxic traffic pollution that blights our towns and cities. Any way you look at it, a rapid transition to renewable energy makes sense.”

Responding to calls from WWF Scotland for a Scottish 50% renewable energy target 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 – and driven tremendous growth in renewable electricity generation.

“However, it’s now time to lift our horizons and set an ambitious target to drive investment in renewable heat, power and transport through the 2020s.

“This report echoes Scottish Renewables’ call for a new 50% renewable energy target and, importantly, concludes that this is both achievable and key to meeting our climate change targets.

“A new energy strategy with an ambitious new target would ensure that renewables can play a key role in meeting Scotland’s climate change targets and maximise the jobs and investment that our sector can bring to Scotland.”

An important factor in achieving this however will be dealing with the intermittent nature of renewable energy and way to harness and store it when it is being produced but it not required.

The most viable of storage options is Pumped Storage Hydro and last week another new report funded by the Scottish Government, SSE, and Scottish Power set out 20 key reasons for expanding this technology in the UK.

These include alleviating network congestion costs by storing excess generation in constrained zones for later use, as well as avoiding waste of low carbon electricity during periods of low demand. In addition, pumped storage hydro is the most economical storage technology for the long discharge periods required to contribute to security of supply.

Speaking of the report Hannah Smith, policy officer for Scottish Renewables said “It is important that government creates the right policy environment to encourage investment. We would like to see a more level playing field for pumped storage hydro which reflects the value it can bring to the electricity system.”

Scottish Energy minister Paul Wheelhouse said “This report outlines the huge opportunity around pumped storage hydro. This tried and tested technology can support peak demand and effectively store greater levels of electricity at times when renewable energy output is high but demand is low,” he said.

“This part of the hydropower industry needs a supportive policy and market framework – such as a ‘cap and floor’ mechanism, as is used for interconnectors – and I call upon the UK government to heed calls from the sector and work with the industry and Scottish Government to remove investment barriers that prevent new pumped storage hydro projects being built.”

The thought of 50% of all our energy requirements coming from renewable sources is extremely appealing and one which is entirely feasible. However in order for it to be achieved we must continue with our creation of new technologies and well as making those we already have more efficient.

Add that with the prospect of full energy storage solutions then such a target is well within our grasp. Yes it will require investment and much work but if we are determined and driven enough we can be successful and with the benefits it will bring it definitely will be worth it.

Another Scottish Renewable Energy First

Another month and another renewable energy generation record has been broken in Scotland. For the first time on record wind generated the equivalent of all Scotland’s electricity needs for the day during two days in a single month. Also new data from WeatherEnergy has confirmed that wind power output in Scotland increased by more than a third in September compared to the same period last year. Over the month wind turbines generated 776,116MWh of electricity which was imported to the grid, an increase of 36% from September 2015.

The amount generated would be enough to supply the average electrical needs of 2.1 million homes, 87% of all residential buildings in Scotland. When businesses and industry are included wind power generated 44% of the country’s entire electricity demand for September. There was also enough hours of sunshine for homes fitted with solar PV panels to generate an estimated 70% of the electricity needs of an average household in Aberdeen, 69% in Dundee, 61% in Edinburgh, 60% in Inverness, and 50% in Glasgow.

Lang Banks director of WWF Scotland said: “September was an astonishing month for wind power, with output up more than a third compared to the same period last year. Even more amazing was that on two separate days wind turbines alone provided output equivalent to more that Scotland’s total electricity needs on each day – the first time we’ve witnessed this twice in a single month.

“That Scotland has made such great strides in generating renewable power and addressing climate change is the result of many years of political and public support. However, if we are to continue to play a leading role globally in cutting carbon emissions, we need politicians to build on our renewable electricity revolution and expand it to other sectors such as heat and transport.”

Karen Robinson of WeatherEnergy said: “It was only back in August that we recorded the first ever day, since we began monitoring the data, where wind turbines alone generated more electricity that was needed on the day. It’s therefore wonderful to see the same repeated in September, but this time on two separate days.

“Electricity demand on the two particular days in question was lower than the average. Nevertheless, the fact wind was able to generate the equivalent of all Scotland’s electricity needs is something worth celebrating.”

However while Scotland was celebrating another renewable energy milestone green campaigners in England were dismayed by the UK’s government’s decision to allow shale gas exploration in Lancashire.

Caroline Lucas, Green party MP said: “Today’s decision shows the yawning gap between the Government’s rhetoric and the reality of their policies – and it will send a shiver down the spine of the many people up and down the country fighting fracking. Ministers promise to support “ordinary people” but have ignored the people of Lancashire – including local and district councillors and the overwhelming majority of local people who objected to these reckless plans.”

“Fracking is a dirty, expensive and dangerous gamble with our environment, security and economy. We should be choosing an energy system powered by the renewable sources that we have in abundance and keep fossil fuels in the ground.”

However not everyone is against the shale gas exploration with business leaders welcoming the move from the government.

Acting director general of the British Chambers of Commerce Adam Marshall said: “We need to explore the potential for shale gas to make a contribution to our energy mix, alongside both nuclear and renewables.

“Tapping domestic energy resources creates both energy security and jobs here at home, and seems a much better alternative to dependence on supplies from overseas.”

Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce said: “Developing a viable shale industry in Lancashire will have positive economic implications for the region in terms of investment, jobs and supply chain engagement, and has the potential to provide security of energy supply to regional manufacturers.

“This announcement means that local businesses will be in pole position for future shale gas supply chain opportunities in the county.”

Fracking and wind power lie at opposite ends of the of the energy generation spectrum. Fracking is seen to be dirty and is very carbon emission heavy however it does not have the same visual impact as wind power does. Also it cannot be denied that it is does provide cheap and plentiful energy as well as supporting the local community with long term jobs.

Although we do believe in a sustainable energy mix and do see some advantages to fracking our belief is that in order to help reduce our carbon emissions in line with the Paris agreement we should not be pursuing this method any further.

Renewable energy generation and in particular wind power has shown with reducing costs and greater grid management it can be the solution to our energy question.