Wind power market expected to quadruple by 2030

This week one of the key figures within the renewables industry predicted that a massive and rapid expansion in the use of renewable energy generation will occur over the next two decades.

Markus Tacke, Chief Executive of the German Multinational Siemens’ wind power division predicted that the global wind power market will more than quadruple in the years through to 2030, with the majority of this growth occuring in the Asian Pacific. Speaking at a renewable energy conference in Berlin Tacke commented that “the market will shift away from Europe significantly.”

Europe is currently the world’s largest market for wind power. So it is inevitable that other regions have more room for industry growth. The Asian Pacific was highlighted due to many nations in the region shifting their energy focus to renewables with wind power generation given particular attention due to the technology’s proven track record and falling costs. Wind power is expected to play a particularly strong role incountries such as Japan, which is moving away from nuclear power to renewables following the Fukishima Disaster, and China, which has large amounts of steppe land suitable for onshore wind farms and a desire to reduce the country’s reliance upon imported coal. Indeed a recent report produced by GlobalData has demonstrated that China doubled it’s installed wind capacity year on year from 2006 to 2011.

As of 2012 there were 273 Gigawatts (GW) of installed renewable capacity across the globe. By 2030 this capacity is expected to increase dramatically to 1,107 GW. As stated previously Europe is the world’s biggest market for renewable energy generation. Along with the Middle East the region accounts for 40% of the world’s renewables market. Currently the Asian Pacific accounts for 34% of the world’s market share. By 2030 this market share is expected to grow to 47%. Obviously this demonstrates huge growth in Asian renewables but it should be noted that the European market will also continue to expand. Despite such aggressive Asian growth European and Middle Eastern market share is only expected to drop to 34%. This indicates the huge amount of renewable capacity which will be constructed in Europe over the next twenty years.

This can be seen in other news announced at the same conference at which Markus Tacke was making his comments. The Norwegian Ministry for Oil and Energy has granted 8 licences for offshore wind farms which when completed are expected to have a combined capacity of 1.3 GW. This is just one of the steps being taken by the Norwegian Government in order to meet their target of having 67.5% of their power being generated from renewable sources by 2020.

Another report on China, this time by Bloomberg New Energy, fully lays bare the monumental amount of growth expected to occur in the Chinese renewables market. They predict that over half of all new generation capacity in China through to 2030 will come from renewable sources. To place this in context, over this timeframe, Chinese power capacity (regardless of how said power is generated) will more than double.

The Bloomberg report covers several different scenarios. One in which progress in clean energy technology is slower than expected, two in which the barriers to rapid takeup of renewable energy technology are removed and what is billed as the most likely scenario; the “New Normal”.

In the “New Normal” scenario over 1,500 GW of generation capacity will be constructed in China by 2030. Such development will be driven by investment of over $3.9 trillion. This level of investment will result in the creation of 88 GW of new capacity annually. To place this in prespective 88 GW represents the entire generation capacity of the United Kingdom!

China’s reliance upon coal power has often been cited as one of the major stumbling blocks towards the world achieving internationally agreed greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. In Bloomberg’s “New Normal” coal’s share of China’s energy mix is expected to drop from it’s current level of 67% to 44% in 2030. This demonstrates the trans-formative potential of renewable energy.

Michael Liebreich chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance echoed Markus Tracke in his assessment of Chinese energy generation:

“It is hard to underestimate the significance of China’s energy consumption growth and its evolving generation mix,” he said. “The impacts will reach far beyond China and have major implications for the rest of the world, ranging from coal and gas prices to the cost and market size for renewable energy technologies – not to mention the health of the planet’s environment.”

The predictions and comments made this week demonstrate the huge potential of both the wind generation industry and the wider renewable energy industry. Renewables surely represent one of the world’s biggest growth markets.

Majority of UK Public Support Renewables

A survey published last weekend in the Sunday Times has revealed that public support for renewable energy remains strong across the political spectrum. Support for renewable energy continues to outstrip support for shale gas developments despite a concentrated and sustained media campaign by shale gas companies.

The survey, carried out by YouGov, polled 1,952 people, establishing their political preferences and asked them if they were in favour of financial support for a variety of energy generation technologies. The poll revealed that a majority of all four political parties supporters were in favour of continued funding for renewable technologies such as wind and tidal power.

Regardless of political opinion, a majority of 65% were in favour of continuing support for the wind industry. This was a strong result given the continuing campaign against the industry in some parts of the media. 76% of those polled were in favour of financial support for the embryonic tidal power industry and 79% were favourable to continued support for solar power. These poll results seem to indicate that a consensus exists among the public in regards to renewable energy generation. Nearly two-thirds of those polled are of the opinion that renewable energy is the solution both to rising energy prices and climate change. This is reflected in the poll results for fossil fuel use. Only 40% of those polled were in favour of financial support for shale gas despite the optimistic estimates made in some parts of the media about it’s potential impact upon the domestic energy market. This belief in renewable energy was also seen in the fact that only 49% of those polled were in favour of financial support for nuclear support. This is despite the fact that new nuclear power generation will not be able to go ahead in this country without very heavy financial support from the government.

Shale gas has rapidly become a concern for many people within the UK; as demonstrated by the anti-fracking protest groups which are springing up across the country. Such concerns are reflected in the polling data. For example, 47% of those polled considered shale gas extraction (fracking) to be damaging to the environment. Only 31% believed that this was not the case. Furthermore, 43% of people felt that shale gas development would be harmful to their local area. Only 25% of people would be happy to see fracking proceed in their locality.

The fact that UKIP were included as one of the political party preferences demonstrates their growth; particularly in England. The party has often been perceived as an extremist (in some regards) offshoot of the Conservative party. One would expect therefore their supporters to be strongly anti-renewables. However, 51% of polled UKIP supporters were in favour of financial support for wind power and 76% in favour of support for marine energy. These results correlate with an earlier survey which found that voters favour politicians who actively support wind power. Public support for wind energy generation continues to be strong.

RenewableUK‘s Director of External Affairs, Jennifer Webber released the following statement about the poll results:

“Poll after poll shows that voters value low carbon technologies such as wind and tidal power. This latest poll shows that there’s not a single age group or voting demographic where a majority of people don’t want financial support for wind. It’s clear that for politicians, whether they’re UKIP, Conservative, Liberal Democrat or Labour that further development of our natural wind and marine resources is the way to go.

“With a recent study from Cardiff University showing that over 80% of people are worried about becoming overly dependent on energy from other countries, it’s important that confidence is retained for domestic low carbon producers. Wind provided enough power for the equivalent of 4.5 million homes last year and needs to play an increasing role in our electricity provision. If we press strongly on, as supporters of all political parties are urging, we can also build on our offshore and marine supply chain to create tens of thousands of jobs over the next decade”.

In other news, several major turbine manufacturers are collaborating together on solutions to reduce bird fatalities caused by turbine blades. The project is being led by Energy Norway, includes contributions from Statoil, Vatenfall, Trønder Energi Kraft, NVE and NINA, and is supported by the Research Council of Norway. Although research has demonstrated that turbines have no long term impact on bird populations and indeed cause less fatalities than traffic or domestic cats bird deaths remains an issue for some members of the public. This new pilot scheme will test whether painting some parts of wind turbines black (for instance one of the turbine blades or part of the tower) can increase their visibility to bird species and reduce collisions. The use of ultraviolet paint (which is invisible to the human eye) is also being explored. Trials are to be carried out at the 68 turbine Smøla wind farm in Northern Norway. Whilst any step which can be taken to reduce collisions is welcome it should be remembered that the most significant steps taken to avoid harming bird populations are carried out at the planning stage. Stringent planning requirements exist in Scotland (and the wider UK) to ensure that turbines are placed in areas in which they will have a minimal impact on protected species, large populations and migratory routes. However, if such schemes can further minimise bird deaths then they be welcomed by both the wind industry and the public.

Wind power continues to receive the support of the British public. But the result of this fact must not be complacency.The wind power industry must continue to get it’s message across. And programs such as that being trailed in Norway can only help to do so.

New radar system could mean boon for onshore wind

Last week a new and potentially revolutionary 3D radar system was tested in Scotland. The new system is designed to eliminate interference in radar systems from wind turbines.

Current radar systems can be subject to interference from wind turbines. When spinning and generating power turbines in areas covered by aviation radar systems can potentially confuse or ‘clutter’ radar. Whilst there are some limited solutions available to turbine developers the scale at which these can be used is limited. Existing aviation radar systems can be ‘patched’  to reduce any potential for ‘clutter’ on radar screens however this must be done on an individual basis and it is generally the case that one patch can be used in a 2.5 kilometre radius. Additionally patches are not always available. These limitations have meant that many potential onshore wind developments have been unable to progress despite them meeting all other criteria for development in terms of environmental and landscape impact,grid capacity, visual impact etc. The trade body RenewableUK has estimated that approximately 6.2 GW (Gigawatts) worth of onshore wind developments have been held up due to such aviation issues. However, this figure is likely to be higher due to developments being dropped early or never progressed with due to expectations of such issues down the line.

The new 3D holographic radar system was successfully tested at Prestwick Airport last week by the systems developer Aveillant. The new 3D radar system was successful in differentiating between spinning turbine blades and flying aircraft. The turbines at Millour Wind Farm which is nearby to Prestwick Airport were used to conduct the tests. It should be noted this this windfarm is located in an area which does not cause any potential safety risks to the existing radar system at Prestwick Airport.

The new radar system has also been succesfully tested recently in the United States; at Indian Mesa Wind Farm in West Texas. In both tests the system was completely successful in pinpointing the location of all turbines and aircraft (as part of the test information about the flight-paths and altitudes of aircraft passing over and near to the turbines was not made known in advance) without any interference. Following the US tests it was announced that American civil and military surveillance requirements were successfully met. Gordon Oswald, Aveillant’s Chief Technology Officer stated:

“We don’t know exactly what was flown overhead – we’re talking about the most sophisticated government in the world here, and they will be out to test us – but we can confirm that several different types of aircraft were detected above and around the wind farm, and that our radar easily distinguished between wind farms and different types of aircraft.”

It is worth noting that the radar system was safely and successfully installed for the US test in less than a day. Developer Aveillant has announced that provided further, more detailed, tests are successful then the radar system could be in commercial operation by the end of this year.

David Crisp, chief executive at Aviellant made the following statement after the completion of the test at Prestwick:

“This is the first live demonstration of the radar [in the UK] and it has gone fantastically well.

“We have had very good feedback from wind farm developers and the Civil Aviation Authority, and will be doing more detailed risk assessments to meet the CAA’s standards.

“It’s an interesting thing to demonstrate because we are basically showing that there is nothing to see. Normal radar sweeps around once every four seconds. Holographic 3D radar is the next generation technology, going round four times per second, or 16 times faster.

“The first aim was to prove that the 3D radar can differentiate between aircraft and turbines, which was clearly demonstrated. The second aim was to show that the holographic radar can be integrated with airport radar, which happened seamlessly.

“If all those objections shown in the RenewableUK data last year were removed you could almost double the amount of wind farms in the UK. This will have a huge impact in Scotland, which is, quite rightly I think, very committed to wind power and has a very good wind climate compared to England.”

Several major players in the onshore wind industry have invested in the development of this new radar system through the Aviation Investment Fund Company Limited (AIFC).Currently AIFC has invested £500,000 in the development. Their chairman Simon Heyes was present at the test in the UK and made the following comment to the press:

“To see what we have heard so much about has been really good. It certainly takes us a step forward to our goal of getting wind farms constructed where they currently are held up by objections from airports.”

Industry body Scottish Renewables has estimated that around half of all wind turbine applications which have ran into aviation issues are in Scotland. From this then we can see the contribution the roll-out of such new radar systems could make not just to Scotland’s onshore wind industry but to our country’s targets in renewable energy generation, carbon emission reduction and to increasing our energy security.

Scottish Renewables’ senior policy manager Ross Blairmie reacted to the successful testing:

“For a number of years the industry has been working extensively to understand how wind farms interact with radars used by the aviation industry … This has resulted in major investments being made to find innovative solutions to tackle the issue.

“Scottish Renewables welcomes the new research and technology being tested by Aveillant and hopes to work with companies like them, along with the Scottish Government and the aviation industry, to find a solution to remove this significant barrier to the development of onshore wind in Scotland.”

It is worth noting that the issue of radar interference has not just affected the development of large scale wind farms but small and medium scale developments such as those carried out by ourselves at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy). Whilst much of the media attention has focused on wind farms, as is often the case, there are landowners and farmers in many areas of Scotland who have been unable to progress with their developments due to aviation concerns. The successful commercial deployment of new 3D radar systems represents an opportunity for many farmers and landowners to progress with onshore wind developments. Meaning that much needed revenue streams can be accessed in what are difficult times for many in the agricultural industry. Additionally the progression of such developments would also mean more funding for community contribution schemes such as we at ILI (RE) operate.

We eagerly await further news on this front.

 

 

Biggar Museum to be funded by onshore wind

It was announced this week that the Biggar Museum Trust has been awarded £620,000 of funding from the Clyde wind farm community fund by South Lanarkshire Council. This funding means that the Trust will now be able to build a new facility to house Biggar Museum’s collection.

The Clyde wind farm community fund allocates approximately £800,000 annually to community and business projects in South Lanarkshire. As such the £620,000 awarded to the Biggar Museum Trust represents the largest single contribution made by the fund, administered by South Lanarkshire Council on behalf of SSE’s (Scottish and Southern Energy’s) Community Investment Programme. At least £20 million will be invested in South Lanarkshire over the 25 year life span of the 152 turbine, 350 Megawatt  Clyde Wind Farm.

Biggar Museum Trust has been trying for a number of years to develop a new facility. Currently the Trust’s collection, which has been being built up over the last 40 years, is currently scattered across a number of locations across Biggar. in 2012 the Trust had applied unsuccessfully for Lottery Funding but has now been able to secure a larger level of funding thanks to local renewable energy developments.

The new facility will be based at the former Stephens Garage on Biggar High Street. Estimates submitted as part of the funding application indicate that the new museum will bring in approximately £88,000 per year to the local economy. Upon receiving the news that the funding application had been successful James Dawney, Chairman of the Biggar Museum Trust, commented:

“We are absolutely delighted with this award. It represents a major element of the financing needed to build the new museum of Biggar and Upper Clydesdale, a project that will not only safeguard the future of Biggar’s unique collection but will also create a cultural hub for visitors and local people to connect with their heritage and enjoy a wide range of activities.”

Chair of South Lanarkshire Council’s Enterprise Services Committee, Councillor Chris Thompson, said: “This project is great news for the people of Biggar and the surrounding communities. Hopefully it will attract people from far and wide and allow them to see for themselves the impressive collection of artefacts the Trust has collected over the years.”

Ciara Wilson, SSE Community Investment Advisor, added:”SSE is proud to be backing a project of this calibre through our Clyde wind farm fund. The new museum has the potential to create significant economic benefits for the wider community by bringing new visitors to the area and supporting other local businesses in turn. It will be a great legacy for future generations.”

It should be noted that the Biggar Museum Trust was not the only project to be awarded funding from the Clyde wind farm community fund; nor indeed was the only fund to be allocated this week. For example the Clyde wind farm community fund also awarded £32,402 to the Rigside Playpark Group – a band of parents and local volunteers – to redevelop a playpark in the village of Rigside. Similarly the Douglas Playpark Group was awarded £46,185 to redevelop the Manse View Playpark

The Blacklaw Renewable Energy Fund (again administered by South Lanarkshire Council on behalf of ScottishPower Renewables) awarded £15,322 to the Fourth Royal British Legion to refurbish their premises in Blacklaw Village. New toilet and kitchen facilities will be installed as part of this refurbishment. Funding was also awarded to St Mary’s Episcopal Church in Hamilton to carry out refurbishment work. These are just some of the examples of the good work which is being facilitated, not just in South Lanarkshire but across the country, by renewable energy developments, particularly onshore wind.

Councillor Chris Thompson, the chair of the council’s Enterprise Services Committee, which approved the applications, observed: “All of the projects given approval today will have a real benefit for their community. I am delighted that such a wide range of them have received this support.

“We do of course have to thank the various wind farm operators as the money comes from them and we simply administer the funds on their behalf.”

Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) is pleased to be able to say that we are also contributing to South Lanarkshire Council’s renewable energy fund through the large number of consented developments we have in the area. We also look forward to increasing the level of this funding by increasing the number of developments we have consented in South Lanarkshire.

However, it must be pointed out that there numerous local authorities within Scotland that do not operate such funds. This is perhaps unfortunate as it can make the benefits renewable energy developments can bring to an area less visible. This is an issue that we hope the Scottish Government Community Benefit Register is rectifying.

In such areas, which do not have a council administrated fund, we at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) have made our own arrangements. Often in areas in which there is no obligation to offer a community benefit of any kind. Contributions are being made to community groups and local charities up and down the country, particularly in areas of child support and development. It is our belief that the benefits of local renewable energy developments should be directed at those most in need. The unsupported, marginalised and vulnerable. Medium scale single turbine developments such as ours not only mean that the benefits brought by feed-in-tariffs are not limited to large-scale landowners but that community benefits can go beyond construction and into vital local social support networks.

 

 

Scotland achieves Europe’s biggest carbon reduction

Last week new figures were published by the Scottish Government which have revealed the strides the country is taking in reducing carbon emissions. Ambitious targets were set by the current administration; as with renewable energy generation.

The released statistics show that carbon emissions went down by 9.9% in 2011 compared to 2010. This is the largest reduction on record. In 2010, Scotland was responsible for 56.9MtCO2e (metric tonnes of carbon emissions) being released into the atmosphere. 2011 saw 51.3MtCO2e being released into the atmosphere – a reduction of 5.6MtCO2e. These results ensured that Scotland retained its position as the most successful EU-15 member state (the EU-15 is composed of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the countries of the United Kingdom) in reducing its level of carbon emissions. Over the period 1990-2011 Scotland has successfully reduced carbon emissions by 29.6%.

Unfortunately, despite the record breaking nature of these emission reductions Scotland was unable to meet the revised target for 2011 by a narrow margin of 0.8MtCO2e. The Scottish Government attributed this to a revision of the historical data which was used to set carbon emission reduction targets in 2009. Spokespeople for the Government stressed that the country has been successful in meeting the reduction target for the year in percentage terms. The failure to meet the target in terms of carbon emissions themselves was wholly attributed to the revised and thusly increased levels of carbon emissions between 1990 and 2009. Had these figures been un-revised the 2011 target would have been exceeded.  It was emphasised that the 2020 carbon emission target is still absolutely achievable and as of this point in time the country will have to reduce its level of carbon emissions by 44% over the next seven years. Scotland is over halfway there.

Paul Wheelhouse, Scottish Government Minister for Environment and Climate Change announced the release of the data with the following statement:

‪“Latest statistics published show that Scotland is on course to meet our climate change targets.

“In 2011 unadjusted emissions fell by 9.9 per cent – the largest year-on-year drop since records began. They also show large decreases in greenhouse gas emissions in the energy supply, residential and public sectors.

“The long term trend shows we will achieve our world-leading target of a 42 per cent emissions reduction if we continue on the course we have set. I also welcome that Scotland continues to lead the EU15 on emissions reductions.

“Despite changes to the historical data on emissions, making this year’s target harder to achieve, we have come within touching distance of it, and the revised targets mean we will all need to focus our efforts in the future to stay on course.

“Whilst I am disappointed we have not achieved our climate change reduction goal for 2011 in carbon terms, we have met it in percentage terms – with a 25.7 per cent reduction between 1990 and 2011. If the baseline had not changed the target would also have been met in carbon terms.”

Responses to the information were perhaps somewhat muted but optimistic for the future. Dr Sam Gardner of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland commented:

“We recognise that this is due in part to complicated changes in how we count our emissions, but the headline of another missed target strongly underlines the need for the much tougher climate action plan – expected out later this month – that will drive down emissions year on year and give confidence that future targets can be met.”

There was further good news in other aspects of the countries long term energy strategy. For instance, nearly two thirds (65%) of homes in Scotland were ranked ‘good’ in terms of energy efficiency. This represents an increase of 15% since such data was last collated in 2007.

Additionally, Scotland is ahead of schedule in meeting the 2020 target for 100% of the country’s electricity needs to be generated from renewable sources. Provisional data indicates that in 2012 38.7% of Scotland’s electricity needs were generated using renewable sources. Given that the first marine and tidal tubine farms will begin feeding electricity into the national grid over the course of the next few years and the increasing prevalence and popularity of onshore wind then one one would expect the 2015 interim target of 50% of electricity needs to be generated from renewables to be exceeded as well.

Responding to these comments Scottish Government Energy Minister Fergus Ewing (who was involved in a round-table discussion with our Chief Executive Mark Wilson last week) commented:

“2012 was another record year for renewables in Scotland.  Scotland also contributed more than a third of the entire UK’s renewables output, demonstrating just how important a role our renewable resource is playing in terms of helping the UK meet its binding EU renewable energy targets.

“We remain firmly on course to generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity needs from renewables by 2020 – with renewables generating more than enough electricity to supply every Scottish home.”

With the Scottish Government also announcing increased support for wind power it is clear that the country is committed to carbon emission reduction and renewable energy. ILI (Renewable Energy) will continue to do it’s part in contributing to the fulfillment of these targets and keeping energy bills down for consumers by reducing dependence upon fossil fuel imports

UK completes construction of world’s largest offshore wind farm

This week the world’s largest offshore wind farm, the London Array, finished construction in UK waters. This now means that both the world’s biggest onshore and offshore wind farms are now supplying electricity to British homes. The London Array was a joint project between Dong Energy, Masdar and EON.

The London Array consists of 175 individual 6MW turbines giving a total installed capacity of 630MWs. This  will provide enough electricity to power nearly half a million homes or expressed another way two thirds of Kent’s housing stock. Additionally the wind farm will reduce the UK’s carbon emissions by 900,000 tonnes a year.

The completion of construction was announced with much fanfare. Richard Rigg, the Project Director stated:

“This is the final major milestone of the construction phase and the culmination of more than two years offshore construction work which began in March 2011 with the installation of the first foundation.

“It has been a complex operation but I am delighted that the commissioning of the wind farm has now been completed on schedule, despite the worst of the winter weather.”

Country Manager for Dong Energy‘s UK Wind Business, Benj Sykes commented:

“Building London Array, the world’s largest offshore wind farm, is a great achievement.

“As we now look to our pipeline of future projects, Dong Energy is determined to drive down the cost of offshore wind farms to €100 per megawatt hour for projects we will be sanctioning in 2020.

“What we have learnt at London Array, together with our continuing focus on innovation in technologies and techniques, will help us achieve that.”

Tony Cocker, Chief Executive Officer at E.ON UK remarked:

“London Array is a significant achievement in renewable energy. The world’s largest operational offshore wind farm will be  capable of generating enough energy  to power nearly half a million homes and reduce harmful CO2 emissions by over 900,000 tonnes a year.

“It’s been a tough time for the team working on site. The recent bad weather and north-easterly winds have whipped up the waves preventing access to the site so this milestone is true reward for their hard work.”

Maria McCaffrey, RenewableUK Chief Executive released the following statement:

“Britain has a real achievement to celebrate here – the largest operational offshore wind farm in the world is generating clean electricity for British homes and businesses . It’s a monumental feat of green engineering. Other massive projects are also coming to fruition in UK waters, such as Teeside, Gwynt y Mor off the coast of North Wales and Gunfleet Sands off the Essex coast, where the next generation of even more powerful offshore turbines is being tested in the water for the first time anywhere in the world.

To hold on the UK’s global lead in offshore wind, it’s vital that we maintain this momentum. We  must ensure that the crucial  legislation going through Parliament right now – the Energy Bill – sets a rock-solid framework to encourage investment in renewables.

“If MPs get the details of the Bill right, we can unlock billions of pounds of investment for more flagship low-carbon projects like London Array, and create 76,000 jobs in the British wind industry by the dawn of the next decade.

“To secure those jobs, and to safeguard employment for future generations, we’re also getting the Government to articulate a clear vision of the scale of its amobition for the wind industry in the longer term, beyond 2020.”

The completion of Phase One of the London Array demonstrates the great strides the British wind industry is taking, delivering much needed growth and jobs to the British economy.  The fact that the UK is now home to the world’s largest offshore and onshore (Whitelees wind farm in South Lanarkshire) wind farms demonstrates the existing strength of the industry. But the potential is there for far more.

Scottish Renewables Industry set to surpass £1 billion investment for 2012

It was announced this week that investment levels in the Scottish renewables industry are at record breaking levels. In the first six months of 2012 alone over £900 million was invested into the industry; £801 million of which went into onshore wind. In comparison £750 million was invested in the industry in the whole of 2011. Investment levels are confidently expected to top £1 billion by the end the year and could reach a figure as high as one £1.5 billion.

Niall Ferguson, Chief Executive of trade-body Scottish Renewables greeted the news at the Scottish Green Awards earlier in the week:

“We learnt that we smashed the 2011 renewable electricity target, that the sector supports  some 11,000 jobs, is making a massive dent in carbon emissions, and output has again hit record levels.

“DECC figures show that Scotland’s renewable energy sector delivered some £900 million of investment in the first six months of 2012, putting us firmly on course to exceed an annual total of £1 billion for the first time in the industry’s history.

“More than £800 million of this came from onshore wind, showing the importance of the sector during a challenging time for Scotland’s economy. That investment is of course supporting thousands of jobs across Scotland in project management, civil engineering, professional services and operations and maintenance.

“This year could see more than double the level of capital projects delivered than in 2011.We attracted around £750 million of investment in the entire year of 2011 and more than £900 million in the just six months of 2012. If we continue at this rate there’s a good chance we could see in excess of £1.5 billion of capital projects.

Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing also commented on the news, issuing the following statement:

“Scotland’s clean green energy resources are delivering thousands of jobs and hundreds of thousands of pounds of investment to communities across Scotland.

“These figures show the size of the prize renewable energy is offering to the people of Scotland, with renewable energy investment in Scotland now set to exceed £1 billion in 2012 alone.

“The list of recent companies investing, or planning to invest, in Scotland’s renewable energy future shows that Scotland is increasingly the destination of choice for renewable energy investment.”

Another announcement served to further hammer home the point of just how much renewable energy, and particularly onshore wind, is contributing to the Scottish economy. A survey produced by the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) shows that £1 of every £8 spent on infrastructure projects in Scotland is coming from investment in renewable energy.

CECA Scotland’s chairman Roger Philpott commented; “We’re not surprised the renewables sector is providing more than 15 per cent of Scotland’s annual £2 billion civil engineering outturn. It’s right up there with Scottish Water and Scottish Transport.”

It is hoped that the good news can continue to flow in for the Scottish renewables industry into the new year.

Government confirms commitment to Renewable Energy

Last week the UK Government underlined it’s commitment to renewable energy by announcing a funding commitment for future years. In total £7.6 billion pounds will be made available to the renewables industry between the years 2015-2020. This sum will be generated from small subsidies taken from individuals energy bills. The slight increases this funding will cause in energy bills is fully expected to be more than offset by savings made from having to import a reduced amount of gas from abroad. The £7.6 billion pounds is also expected to stimulate a further £40 billion worth of investment in the renewables industry – which has been one of the the few growth industries in the UK – and create thousands of jobs.

The funding commitment is expected to increase renewable electricity generation from it’s current level of 11% of electricity used to 30% by 2020. This will see the UK achieve it’s EU agreed target for renewable generation

The announcement was made in the build up the Coalition’s Energy Bill being presented in parliament. It is encouraging that the Coalition Government has presented such a united front on this issue following media speculation about disagreements over future energy policy.

At the announcement of the spending commitment for 2015-2020 the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey gave the following statement:

“This is a durable agreement across the Coalition against which companies can invest and support jobs and our economic recovery.

“The decisions we’ve reached are true to the Coalition Agreement, they mean we can introduce the Energy Bill next week and have essential electricity market reforms up and running by 2014 as planned.

“They will allow us to meet our legally binding carbon reduction and renewable energy obligations and will bring on the investment required to keep the lights on and bills affordable for consumers.”

The news was generally greeted favourably by the industry. Maria McCaffrey, the Chief Executive of the trade body RenewableUK, released the following statement:

“This is a crucial announcement for the renewable energy sector. The news that there is rock solid support across Government for renewable energy, and clear evidence that Treasury and the Department of Energy and Climate Change are in step, provide the industry with exactly the kind of assurances we’ve been calling for. This blows the last few months of political infighting completely out of the water.

“This is proof that the Treasury really does get it – the renewable energy industry offers one of our best hopes for economic recovery. This will stimulate billions of pounds worth of investment in renewables, creating more than 88,000 jobs in wind, wave and tidal energy alone by 2021. It will enable us to hit our 2020 renewable energy targets, and make sure renewables can play their part in protecting UK consumers from unstable international power markets – we’ve seen over the last few years that the cost of imported gas has caused the bulk of energy bill price rises, and developing our own resources helps counter that dependence and vulnerability.

“The UK Government is sending a clear message that 30% of our electricity will be from renewable sources by 2020. The lion’s share will come from wind energy, with 31 gigawatts to be installed by the end of the decade.

“The Government also clearly understands that there’s likely to need to be a decarbonisation target for 2030. That’s great news, which will retain investor confidence in the long term. Those investors put £2.5 billion into the industry this year – this will now increase exponentially. Now it’s full steam ahead, so let’s get on with it”.

Jenny Hogan , Director of Policy for Scottish Renewables broadly agreed:

“There is still a great deal of detail on Electricity Market Reform to be revealed, but today’s announcement confirms that the Government remains committed to the growth of renewable energy and to our 2020 energy targets.

“This provides some much needed and long awaited certainty to the industry, which will allow us to really start planning for the future and investing in technologies such as offshore wind and marine energy. In turn we will see a massive reduction in carbon emissions from our power sector over the next decade.

“This is a particularly important announcement for Scotland, given that uncertainty over EMR has been the biggest threat to the development of offshore wind manufacturing and supply chain which could bring many thousands of jobs across the country.

“The UK Government needs Scotland to achieve our 100% renewable electricity target if the UK is to meet its re-stated renewable energy targets.”

John Cridland, director general of the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) welcomed the announcement but did also stress that it is of critical importance that the interests of other British Industries were remembered:

“This package will send a strong signal to investors that the government is serious about providing firms with the certainty they need to invest in affordable, secure, low-carbon energy. The government should ensure that those households and businesses most vulnerable to increased energy prices are protected.”

It is hoped that the industry can move on from speculative and potentially damaging headlines to helping the UK achieve its renewable energy targets.

Scottish Government unveils new planning guidance for wind developments

A few weeks ago the Scottish Government unveiled new planning guidance for wind energy developments.

This set of best practise guidelines is intended to speed up the planning process for developers as well as making it easier for planning authorities, affected communities and developers to assess proposals.

Much of the guidance is devoted to encouraging the closer involvement of communities in proposed developments from the earliest possible stage as well as seeking to minimise environmental impacts.

The guidance has been produced as a result of the GP (Good Practise) Wind Project, a European Union project led by the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Government drew up the guidelines in consultation with a number of relevant bodies including Scottish Power Renewables, the RSPB, Scottish and Southern Energy and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (the Western Isles Council).

The guidance was launched by the Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing:

“I’m delighted to launch these materials, developed with industry, planning authorities and stakeholders, which aim to make the planning process for wind developments go more smoothly for everyone involved.

“The Scottish Government wants to see the right developments in the right places, and this guidance will help to ensure that – while also making sure there are fewer unsuitable applications and that communities are properly consulted and informed.

“We have set an ambitious, but achievable, renewable energy target and we are determined to ensure that communities all over Scotland benefit from our renewable energy revolution, which is already bringing jobs and investment.

“But we are determined that this should be done in a sustainable way, sympathetic to the needs of communities and protecting the environment and our fantastic natural heritage.

“This project supports our drive to promote engagement with communities and consultees from the beginning of a plan’s development.”

Representatives of the Government’s consultees also commented on the launch of the guidance. Councillor Angus Campbell, Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar stated:

“Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is pleased to have had the opportunity to participate in the GP Wind project. As an island community on the edge of Europe, the Outer Hebrides stands to lose the most from the impacts of Climate Change but these islands are also home to one of the best wind and wave resources in Europe.

“If we are to decarbonise our energy supply, it is vital that the boundless energy resource in areas like the Outer Hebrides is accessed but that this is done in an environmentally responsible way.  In this process, we need to address and resolve the challenges which currently hamper the implementation of wind generation, on and offshore, across Europe.

“We view GPWIND as a huge step forward in building a collective understanding of these challenges and the outputs of GPWIND will help us to develop and sustain good practice, enabling our area to become a power house for Europe while sustaining and developing fragile communities.”

David Gardner, Director of SSE Renewables (onshore) remarked:

“SSE Renewables is pleased to be a partner in the Good Practice Wind Project. All development projects should be constructed and operated in a responsible way and SSE Renewables is committed to this.

“Many other countries across Europe will benefit from Scotland demonstrating a leading role in delivering good practice in renewable energy development, but we can always learn to do better, and sharing good practice across the industry in this way is a very positive step.”

Aedan Smith, the Head of Planning and Development at RSPB Scotland commented:

“We are very pleased to have had the opportunity to work with the Scottish Government and other partners from across Europe on the GP Wind project.  Given the challenge facing wildlife and people from climate change, we support the continued development of an environmentally sustainable wind energy industry as a proven way to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“However, wind energy developments must be sited and designed to avoid damaging our best places for wildlife.  The good practice guide and toolkit produced by the GP Wind project should help ensure this happens. We encourage all those involved in the development of wind energy to apply good practice in line with the guide.”

If these new guidelines are successful in speeding up the planning process for wind developments then communities up and down the country will reap the benefits.

 

 

Onshore Wind brings substantial economic benefits

A new report, produced jointly, by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the industry trade body RenewableUK has studied in-depth the impact of onshore wind upon both local economies and the national economy.

The report examined 18 wind farm sites of different sizes from across the UK. The contribution made by wind farm development, construction, operation and maintenance to the British economy was observed at local, regional and national level.

It was found that the total onshore wind market was worth  £548 million to the UK economy in the year 2011 alone. Additionally, over 9,000 jobs were supported by the industry. Perhaps even more interestingly, it was found that for every megawatt of onshore wind capacity installed in the UK £700,000 was added to GDP. Over £100,000 of which remains within the Local Authority area that the development is located.

If the UK was to achieve the target of 13GW of installed onshore wind capacity by 2020, set out in the Renewable Energy Roadmap, then the contribution to annual GDP would rise to £780 million and approximately 11,600 jobs would be supported. A figure which rises to 15,500 if ancillary jobs are included. These figures would then suggest that onshore wind is already making a major contribution to the British economy, particularly at a local level.

UK Energy Minister Ed Davey described onshore wind as “a cost effective and valuable part of the UK’s diverse energy mix”, at the publication of this report, going on to say further:

“Not only does wind power provide secure, low carbon power to homes and businesses, it supports jobs and brings significant investment up and down the country too.

“Our policies of increasing community involvement will also help to ensure the right balance between developers and community interests.

“With the cost of the technology coming down, there is a real opportunity to reap the economic benefits onshore wind can bring.”

Perhaps most interestingly, it was found that one of every three local jobs created by onshore wind developments is in the operation or maintenance sector.

Which is to say that these are long term jobs in the local area. This sort of job creation is of particular importance to Local Authorities and is very much a consideration in planning decisions.

The question of the supply chain is also raised in the report; specifically how much of the work required for onshore wind developments is carried out within the UK. It is found that many of the 8,000 components required to manufacture a turbine are, or could be, produced within this country, reaching the conclusion that; “many activities relating to the development of wind farms are already carried out by UK based businesses. As the sector develops, there are likely to be opportunities to increase this activity.”

The reports findings were greeted by RenewableUK’s chief executive Maria McCaffrey:

“This study explains why in rural areas 68% of people support wind, and 57% of those living in rural areas recognise that wind brings benefits in terms of jobs, 12% more than those in urban areas.

“Rather than feeling that wind has been imposed on them, real people across the UK are recognising the benefits of having wind in their backyard, and with Government’s help we’ll continue to build on the 8600 people employed across the country because of onshore wind, as promised by our members in the “Wind Energy Charter“.

“Whilst we can see that with increased deployment comes both increased value and jobs added, plus an increase in market share for the UK, if we were to only see 10GW come forward jobs will actually be lost in the development and construction phases, and there will be no increase in our market share. So it’s therefore essential for UK growth and employment to keep onshore wind progressing and revitalising communities.”

It could be argued that as the economic benefits of onshore wind become more apparent they become more difficult to refute.