Google continues move to 100% renewables

This week it was announced by Google that they had taken another step towards their aim of deriving all of their power from renewable sources. The tech giant has just announced the purchase of four onshore wind farms in Sweden. Power from these wind farms is to be used by the company’s data centres located within the country.

Each of the four wind farms is located in a different Sedish municipality. This lowers any risk to Google- ensuring that for instance if one wind farm were to go offline (for example due to dangerously high wind speeds) the wind farms in other areas would remain unaffected.

Google’s data centres have significant power requirements. Just one of the four wind farms purchased by the company is composed of 29 turbines and has a total installed capacity of 59 megawatts.

The Swedish purchase follows the $75 million investment Google made into an onshore wind farm located in Carson County, Texas at the close of last year. The 182 MW wind farm is expected to be fully constructed and operational by the end of the year.

Google’s director of global infrastructure Francois Sterin made the following comment after the completion of the purchase:

“We’re always looking for ways to increase the amount of renewable energy we use. Long term power purchase agreements enable wind farm developers to add new generation capacity to the grid – which is good for the environment – but they also make great financial sense for companies like Google.”

Google is of course not the only company aiming to derive 100% of it’s power from renewable sources. IKEA aims to achieve this by the end of 2020. In August last year the company purchase a wind farm in Northern Ireland to provide power stores in Belfast and Dublin. The company also already owns onshore wind farms in the  mainland UK, France, Germany, Poland, Sweden and Denmark and it is also common for solar PV arrays to be installed onto the roof’s of their stores. In contrast to Google IKEA aims to own all of the renewable generation developments necessary to hit the 100% target rather than simply agree to purchase power from specific sites.  Sky also has as a 100% renewable energy target: emblemised by the wind turbine installed at their headquarters.

Of course it should be remembered that on site power generation is not just the domain of large multinational companies such as Google and IKEA. Nor is it something which can only be achieved using large scale renewable energy developments such as those discussed above.  There are many examples of smaller companies providing their own on site power using smaller scale renewable energy developments such as small and medium scale wind turbines. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) have been involved in several such developments and feel it is definitely an avenue worth exploring for many companies.

In other news this week saw the launch of the UK Government’s ‘Community Energy Strategy’. The strategy is designed to increase community engagement in energy schemes and help people to reduce their power costs. The strategy was designed following a survey carried out by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to determine public interest in community schemes.

The survey revealed that over 50% of those questioned as part of the survey stated that saving money on energy bills would be the ‘major motivation’  for them to get involved in community energy projects. Additionally 40% of respondants revealed that they were already interested in joining a community energy group, participating in collective energy provider switching schemes and participating in collective energy purchasing schemes.

The ‘Community Energy Strategy’ was produced as a response to such opinions. The following plans have already been revealed to fall under the umbrella of the strategy. Firstly, the launch of the £10 million Urban Community Energy Fund designed to kick start community energy projects in England. Secondly, the £1 million Big Energy Saving Fund designed to help support the work of volunteers helping vulnerable members of society to reduce their energy costs. Thirdly, the launch of the community energy saving competition which offers £100,000 to communities to develop innovative approaches to saving energy and money. And lastly, the creation of a ‘one-stop shop’ information resource to help people interested in developing community energy projects.

Speaking at the launch of the strategy Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey stated:

“We’re at the turning point in developing true community energy.

“The cost of energy is now a major consideration for household budgets, and I want to encourage groups of people across the country to participate in a community energy movement and take real control of their energy bills.

“Community led action, such as collective switching, gives people the power to bring down bills and encourage competition within the energy market.”

Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker also commented:

“The Community Energy Strategy marks a change in the way we approach powering our homes and businesses – bringing communities together and helping them save money – and make money too.

“The Coalition is determined to unleash this potential, assist communities to achieve their ambitions and drive forward the decentralised energy revolution. We want to help more consumers of energy to become producers of energy and in doing so help to break the grip of the dominant big energy companies.”

Maf Smith, Deputy Chief Executive of industry trade body RenewableUK also commented on the strategy launch:

“RenewableUK is committed to helping communities engage in renewable energy, and sponsored a report from Respublica on this last year. We look forward to working with Government, communities and our members on addressing some of the barriers that currently exist to the development of further community ownership.

“With wind power already enjoying massive levels of popularity with communities around the country, the industry is eager to do what it can help find ways of maximising local participation in the future energy supply”.

It should be stated that the onshore wind industry is leading the way in community engagement with renewable energy developments. Last year the industry created a new protocol for onshore wind developers  increasing the level of community benefit taken from wind turbine revenue. Indeed we at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) have included a community contribution as a part of all of our developments whether required to or not.

New UK Wind Energy Record Set

Last week the National Grid announced that a record amount of clean energy was generated from wind power on the 29th of November. Over 6 gigawatts of renewable electricity was fed into the National Grid over the half hour period between 2:30 pm and 3:00 pm- generation levels are measured by the National Grid in half hour intervals hence why figures are not supplied in gigawatt-hours.

From 2:30 to 3:00 pm an average of 6,004 megawatts (or 6.004 gigawatts) was fed into the National Grid solely by wind power. This level of generation represents 13.5% of the electricity demand at that time. Furthermore 6 gigawatts of renewable energy is enough to power over 3.4 million UK homes. These figures demonstrate the sizable amount which wind power alone (other forms of renewable energy generation such as hydro-power also made large contributions) is contributing to the UK’s energy needs. 6 gigawatts of wind power also represents 6 gigawatts worth of fossil fuels that did not have to be burned and a sizable amount of carbon dioxide which was not emitted into the atmosphere.

The previous record for wind power generation was set on the 15th of September when 5,739 megawatts was generated in one half hour period. It should be noted, however, that this record was broken several times on the 29th of November – the 6,004 megawatt figure released by the National Grid merely represents the peak of generation. Indeed, over 13% of the UK’s energy demand was being met by wind power frequently throughout the day. This demonstrates the consistency of supply which can be produced by wind energy.

Industry trade body RenewableUK‘s Director of External Affairs Jennifer Webber commented on the setting of a new record:

“Wind energy is consistently setting new records and providing an ever-increasing amount of clean electricity for British homes and businesses. We’re generating from a home-grown source which gives us a secure supply of power at cost we can control, rather than leaving ourselves exposed to the global fluctuation in fossil fuel prices which have driven bills up. Wind gives us a way to make a smooth transition from old-fashioned fuels to a new low-carbon economy.

“We’re also generating tens of thousands of green-collar jobs for people now working in the fast-growing British wind energy industry”.

Of course it should be remembered that the figures released by the National Grid do not represent the full amount of wind energy being generated in the UK – neither on the day or within that specific half hour period. There are a large amount of wind turbines in the UK, particularly within the small to medium scale (the scale at which we at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) specialise in) which do not feed power into the National Grid. Such turbines will be supplying power locally or on-site. The owners of such developments are not required to supply real time output data to the National Grid and as such will not have been included in their figures.

It should be noted that UK wind power breaking such records as this is set to become a regular occurrence in the near future as more turbines are consented, constructed and begin to supply power into the National Grid. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are looking forward to playing our part in this process as more of our developments are completed in the very near future.

In other news this week the UK Government announced that it is expecting around £40 billion of additional investment to be made in renewable energy generation projects by 2020. It is claimed that figure represents a large amount of progress to the country’s 2020 renewable energy generation targets.

Currently the UK has over 20 gigawatts of operational renewable energy generation capacity. Furthermore there are 11 gigawatts worth of onshore and offshore wind developments which have acquired planning consent and are awaiting construction. As of today there are also 16 renewable generation projects, representing a further 8 gigawatts of capacity if successfully developed, which have reached the next stage of the Final Investment Decision Enabling for Renewables (FIDeR) process. According to a statement released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) these 16 projects would contribute “around 30% of the new renewables generation we need by 2020”. The statement went on to say that “the UK is now on track to meet that target”.

The level of importance that is being placed upon reforming the UK’s energy grid can be seen in the fact that 58% of the total infrastructure spending laid out in the Government’s National Infrastructure Plan is to be directed towards energy. Given that 10-12% of the UK’s current generation capacity is due to come offline over the next decade we can both the need for new generating capacity and the role that renewable energy generation, and particularly wind generation given the relative maturity of the technology, can play in meeting that need.

The level of investment being predicted by the UK Government is sufficient to generate enough renewable energy to power a further 10 million homes across the UK and reduce CO2 emissions by 20 million tonnes. Such amounts of renewable energy generation will also serve to increase the country’s energy security, reduce significantly our reliance upon international fossil fuel markets and, according to figures announced by DECC, support up to 200,000 jobs. We can see then the huge advantages that a committed push for renewable energy development will bring to the country as a whole.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Greg Davies made the following statement at the release of these figures:

“This package will deliver record levels of investment in green energy by 2020. Our reforms are succeeding in attracting investors from around the world so Britain can replace our ageing power station and keep the lights on.

“Investors are queuing up to express their interest in these contracts. This shows that we are providing the certainty they need, our reforms are working and we are delivering ahead of schedule and to plan.

“With sixteen new major renewable projects progressing in our “go early” stage we are delivering ahead of schedule and are able to begin the move to the worlds first low carbon electricity market faster than expected.”

We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are delighted to have played a part in setting new wind generation records. We also look forward to helping set new records with our already installed turbines and also those of our developments which will have completed construction in the near future.

 

New surveys reveals continuing support for renewable energy

The Department of Energy and Climate Change published it’s sixth quarterly tracker survey yesterday.

The survey is carried out every three months to monitor the public’s attitudes to the government’s energy policies. Face to face interviews were carried out at 2,124 households in early July. The published results confirm that the public’s support for renewable energy remains widespread.

76% of those polled stated that they supported or strongly supported the continuing use and expanding development of the UK’s vast renewable energy resources.

Whilst this represents a very slight decline from previous survey results it should be pointed out that the poll was conducted at the height of the shale gas industry’s media blitz, particularly within the right wing press.

This media campaign does not appear to have had the desired affect. There was no change in the level of people who oppose or strongly oppose renewable energy. Only 5% of those polled gave this opinion; demonstrating that this view remains the preserve of an extremist minority. It is also worth making the point that despite much lobbying those parts of the UK which have been proposed as areas suitable for shale gas exploration, or fracking, have seen widespread and organised protests against the proposals.

18% of those surveyed commented that they had no opinion on renewable energy development. This equals the highest level recorded since the surveys were first carried out. Again this suggests that the campaign against renewables in some parts of the media is failing to have the desired affect.

The poll also revealed further positive news for the renewable energy industry. 71% of the people polled gave the opinion that they believe renewable energy to be economically beneficial to the UK. This is a 2% increase from the 69% of people who gave this opinion in the previous survey. Furthermore, 56% revealed that they would be happy to have a large scale renewable development in their local area. Again this was an increase from the previous poll in which 55% gave this opinion. The upwards trend of these opinions can perhaps be attributed to the fact that more renewable energy developments have came online in the time between the two surveys. More people have had a chance to see the economic benefits of renewable energy development in terms of community contributions and job creation. As the positive impacts of renewable energy are felt more widely one can expect the upwards trend of such opinions to continue.

The survey broke down support levels for individual forms of renewable energy generation: 81% stated their support for solar energy, 72% for wave and tidal energy, 71% for offshore wind generation, 65% for onshore wind generation and 60% for biomass. It has been suggested that the reason  wave and tidal and offshore wind have polled so highly is due their relatively low visual impact as opposed to their cost effectiveness; a standard in which other technologies such as onshore wind rank far higher.

In contrast to the continuing support for renewable energy nuclear power saw its support amongst the public continue to decline. Only 37% of those involved in the poll gave their support to its use in the UK. The level of support for nuclear has declined of several quarterly surveys and one can perhaps expect this trend to continue given the continued presence of the Fukushima disaster in the news. 25% of those polled opposed the use of nuclear power (contrasted with the 5% who did not support nuclear) and 35% had no opinion. The decline in support for nuclear as well as the uncertainty surrounding the prospects of new nuclear plants being built indicates that renewables will very much remain key to UK government energy policy.

DECC has long maintained that it regards the future of UK energy generation to be the use of a variety of different energy sources; what is often referred as the ‘mixed portfolio’. This stance continues to have a strong level of support from the UK public with 81% of those polled giving their backing to this policy.

The poll has revealed some of the issues which DECC is facing in terms of public awareness. 74% of people polled commented that they had thought ‘a fair amount’ or indeed a lot about home energy efficiency. Despite this and the launch of the Green Deal this year 47% revealed that they had never heard of smart meters. More will need to be done in this area but it should be noted that this figure represents an improvement on the 53% who gave the same answer in the previous quarter. Additionally the widespread roll out of smart meters (all homes and businesses are expected to have smart meters installed by 2020) is not scheduled to begin until 2015.

The fact that there exists a majority consensus on climate change is also good news for the renewable industry with 66% of the public fairly or very concerned about the issue. 38% of those polled attributed climate change mainly or entirely to human causes. 42% felt that it was being caused by a combination of human and natural causes and only 12% giving the opinion that it was being caused mainly or solely due to natural developments. These results indicate that the debate on the widespread use of renewable energy is far better placed in the UK than it is in a country such as the United States where the climate change debate is far more divisive both publicly and politically. A consensus existing on climate change means that the debate can move forward to how best to address it; which renewable energy generation can play an extremely major part in doing.

Support for renewable energy remains widespread in the UK. It is our hope that we at ILI (Renewable Energy) can do our part to increase it.

 

New Survey Reveals Farmers Enthusiasm for Renewables

A survey published last week has revealed the full extent of the enthusiasm which the British Agricultural Industry has for renewable energy. The research, ‘Farms as Power Stations’ has demonstrated the massive increase in renewable energy generation on British farmland over the last few years and indicates that this level of growth is expected to continue. The role which British Agricultural can play in renewable energy generation is something which we at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) have long appreciated.

The research was carried out in partnership between Nottingham Trent University, Farmers Weekly and Forum For The Future. Around 700 farmers from across the UK participated in the survey. Nearly 40% of those farmers surveyed were utilising renewable energy generation on their land. This is a huge increase on the last comparable survey, carried out by DEFRA in 2010 which found that only 5% of surveyed farmers were generating renewable energy on their land. Such a large and rapid increase demonstrates the great strides the renewable energy industry, particularly onshore wind, has been making over the last few years.

Indeed of those surveyed who did not have some form of renewable energy generation on their land 61% stated that they were extremely likely to rectify this within the next five years; with a majority indicating that small or medium scale wind generation would be their preferred choice. Such keenness is reflected in the reasons given for wanting a renewable  development on their land. Whilst expected reasons such as reducing climate change or increasing national energy security were given by many; 71% gave as their primary reason the good financial returns in comparison to more traditional farm enterprises.

The results of the survey were received enthusiastically by those bodies involved in the canvassing as well the wider renewables industry. Professor Eunice Simmons, the dean of Nottingham Trent University’s School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences, said:

“It’s very positive news that renewables are becoming more popular with UK farmers – and this trend looks set to continue over the coming years.

Maf Smith, Deputy Chief Executive of industry body RenewableUK commented:

“This important new research shows just how valuable renewable energy is to farmers at a tough time for crop yields. Farmers have always worked with the countryside and depend on the weather to make their living, and it’s good to see small-scale wind turbines playing their part in this. The UK’s small wind industry leads the world, and there’s a beautiful synchronicity in turbines manufactured in Loughborough turning in fields in Lincolnshire.”

“With 76% of farmers still believing the potential for renewable energy is not being met, it’s clear that there are a lot of opportunities out there for further development. A consistent rate of support for small and medium-sized wind turbines, and consistent and predictable planning decisions, to help our British industry really establish itself, could ensure that even more farmers are helped to make the most of their natural resources”.

The farmers surveyed also provided what they considered to be the top 5 barriers to on-farm renewable energy generation. The major reason given was the high investment costs. It is at this point in time that we would like to point out that we at ILI (RE) do not require our landowners to provide any capital. The next major barrier given was the amount of red tape involved. ILI (RE) handles all of this for our clients allowing them to concentrate on their core businesses. The third major barrier cited in the survey was the planning process. Whilst it is true that progressing a renewable energy development through the planning system can be a time consuming process we at ILI (RE) are vastly experienced in this process and can call on our in-house specialist staff to deal with any hurdles.  The fourth major barrier, community opposition, is also something which we have dealt with a number of times; gathering support from the community for a development and directing support towards the planners handling any application. The final hurdle, accessing capital, is again something which is not an issue for our developments.

The results of the ‘Farms as Power Stations’ survey chime with other research carried out in this area. For example, a survey carried out in May of this year found that 95% of British farmers believe that renewable energy will play a key role in the future of British Agriculture. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) can only agree with this majority. Having spoken to farmers and landowners up and down the country we understand the importance of accessing the revenue which renewable energy developments can bring in modern British agriculture. Particularly in these times of poor weather and CAP reforms.

 

 

 

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

Scottish Government publishes Electricity Generation Policy Statement

This week the Scottish Government launched the latest draft of its Electricity Generation Policy Statement which aims to outline how the ambitious 100% renewable energy target for 2020 will be achieved. The document contains a large amount of information including a projected breakdown of Scotland’s future energy mix, outlined aims for the countries energy network in 2020, carbon reduction targets, energy efficiency measures, planned grid connections with other countries, and the expected economic benefits in terms of investment levels and job creation. The complete document can be found here. Scottish Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing stated:

“This report shows that the Scottish Government’s target to generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of our electricity needs from renewables, as well as more from other sources, is achievable.

“We know there is doubt and scepticism about our 100 per cent renewables target, and the financial and engineering challenges required to meet it.

“But we will meet these challenges. I want to debate, engage and co-operate with every knowledgeable, interested and concerned party to ensure we achieve our goals.

“We know our target is technically achievable. Scotland already leads the world in renewable energy, and we have the natural resources and the expertise to achieve so much more.

“The prize at stake for the people of Scotland is huge, in terms of jobs, economic opportunities and lower electricity bills for all.”

The Electricity Generation Policy Statement initially outlines what the government hopes to achieve, long term, with the countries energy network.

It states that Scotland’s generation mix should deliver; a secure electricity supply, at an affordable cost to consumers, which can achieve large scale de-carbonisation by 2030, and brings the greatest possible economic benefit to Scotland.

A number of individual targets have been set with these aims in mind. For example, total Scottish energy consumption should be lowered by 12% by 2020. Energy efficiency is internationally regarded as one of the most affordable ways in which energy demand and carbon emissions can be reduced and controlled. Steps are already being taken to meet this target; there was a 7.4% drop in year on year energy demand from 2008 to 2009.

No new nuclear power plants are to be constructed in Scotland although extending the lifespan of the countries two existing nuclear plants for  a further 5 years is being considered. Such a move would serve to ease the transition to a grid more heavily reliant upon renewables.

Carbon Capture and Storage technology is expected to play an important role. Allowing baseload power to be maintained whilst still reducing carbon emissions. A minimum of 2.5 GW of thermal generation fitted with CCS technology is expected to be operational by 2020. CCS technology, if successfully demonstrated at commercial scale, could create up to 5,000 jobs and be worth £3.5 billion to the Scottish economy.

14-16 Gigawatts of renewable capacity will be required to achieve the 100% renewable target by 2020. Currently there are 12 Gigawatts of renewable capacity in various stages of planning, development and deployment. This figure includes 3 Gigawatts of mainly onshore wind projects currently consented or in construction. Whilst it should be remembered that not all of the 12 Gigawatts worth of projects will make it to construction it demonstrates the interest the Scottish renewables sector is already attracting from investors.

To achieve the 2020 target installed renewable generation capacity will have to almost double over the next ten years.Wind (both onshore and offshore) will play a major part in this expansion. 13 Gigawatts of wind energy is expected to be installed by 2020. This will mean that wind power will be providing around 55% of Scotland’s electricity output by this time. The Policy Statement identifies this target as a “major challenge” but argues that it is “consistent” with the projections made in a variety of different reports. Given Scotland’s huge potential for wind energy, strong backing from both the UK and Scottish Goverment’s, and the falling costs of both onshore and offshore wind it seems an achievable, if ambitious, target.

The Scottish Government has outlined a number of economic benefits that a strong and committed drive for increased renewable generation can bring. Firstly, it will serve to insulate consumers from the rising international prices of fossil fuels. The Policy Statement states that from 2013 increased renewable energy capacity will begin to halt the ever increasing cost to consumers from their energy bills.

Secondly, over the next ten years the renewable energy industry alone could be providing up to 40,000 jobs and £30 billion worth of investments into the Scottish economy. This is not including the economic benefits of CCS and increased usage of energy storage technologies. Additionally, the Scottish Government has targeted that 500MW should be owned by local communities by 2020. This level of communal ownership would see up £2.4 billion in Feed in-Tariff revenues over the next 20 years being held by local communities.

Thirdly, the necessary investment in and upgrading of Scotland’s electricity grid would pump £7 billion into the country’s economy and create 1,500 new jobs. The benefits of such investment are already being seen with both ScottishPower and Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) announcing the creation of new training and apprenticeship schemes.

Reactions to the publication of the Electricity Generation Policy Statement have been largely positive.

Ian Marchant, Chief Executive of SSE commented:

“SSE welcomes the Scottish Government’s electricity generation policy statement. With energy supply now a global issue, it is vital that the policy objectives adopted at Scottish, UK and EU level are consistent. With its focus on energy security, affordability and de-carbonisation, this policy statement underlines the extent to which policy objectives are consistent, and it is very encouraging that this should be the case.”

Keith Anderson, ScottishPower’s Chief Corporate Officer and CEO of ScottishPower Renewables remarked:

“ScottishPower supports the commitment to increase low carbon electricity generation in Scotland and we welcome the clarity outlined in the Scottish Government’s policy statement. We are making significant investments in large scale renewable energy projects including new wind, wave and tidal power. This investment is critical in order to help Scotland achieve its renewable energy targets and will be a catalyst for economic growth and job creation.”

Alison Kay, Commercial Director for National Grid observed:

“Scotland already has the highest proportion of clean power generation across Great Britain, which plays a vital role in keeping the lights on and meeting demand. The future energy mix is uncertain and this statement sets out a clear vision for the future of energy in Scotland. It will further enable National Grid and other industry participants to effectively plan the networks of the future.”

The 2020 target is described in the Policy Statement as “both a statement of intent and a rallying call”. It has been demonstrated to be both feasible and achievable, with wind energy playing a massive part. It is hoped that the outlining of a long term plan to help achieve the 100% aim will provide investors with confidence.

 

Government Launches Green Deal

The Government’s new Green Deal has been launched this week.

The scheme aims to reduce fuel poverty by making energy efficiency measures such as insulation more affordable to householders. This will be achieved by allowing people to take out loans of up to £10,000 to make their homes more energy efficient. The loans will be paid back over a 25 year period through ‘small additions’ to household energy bills. These loan repayments are intended to be lower than the amount of money that has been saved on energy; this has been referred to as the Green Deal‘s ‘golden rule’. The Green Deal is intended to be taken up by up to 14 million homes. The government estimates that the Green Deal could lead to the creation of 65,000 jobs.The Green Deal may also offer households that take up the scheme £150 cash-back. Estimates place savings on energy bills at around £94 annually by 2020. It was also announced that Energy companies must contribute £1.4 billion to the scheme annually until 2020.

At the launch of the Green Deal Chris Huhne stated:

“The Green Deal is about putting energy consumers back in control of their bills and banishing Britain’s draughty homes to the history books. By stimulating billions of pounds of private sector investment, the Green Deal will revolutionise the way that we keep our homes warm, making them cosier, more efficient – and all at no upfront cost.

“The Green Deal is also a massive business opportunity for firms up and down Britain, helping to power the economy and creating jobs. From one-man bands and local authorities, to the big supermarket and DIY stores, we want as many providers getting involved as possible because that’s what will give consumers the best deal.

“I want to insulate Britain’s homes not just from the cold weather, but also from the chill winds of global fossil fuel prices. It’s these that are pushing up consumer energy prices, and it’s why our balanced package of policies aimed at achieving energy savings and shifting to more home grown alternatives is the right one for the economy and all of us who pay energy bills.

“There are certainly costs to replacing our ageing energy infrastructure with modern clean power stations, and we take very seriously any impact of our policies on what consumers and businesses pay. we’ve repeatedly taken steps to reduce this – by removing some planned levies on bills and making others more cost effective and within budget.

“But a crucial – and too often ignored -priority of our whole strategy is to reduce the amount of energy we use in our homes.”

Initial reactions to the launch of the Green Deal have been somewhat mixed.

Brian Berry, director of external affairs at the Federation of Master Builders released the following statement:

“With rising energy prices the market for retrofit work is certainly there and is worth at least £3.5 billion every year, but consumers will need to be convinced that the Green Deal makes financial sense to them. It’s pleasing therefore to see the proposed cash back incentive in the consultation, but a reduced rate of VAT for Green Deal approved measures is needed in addition to boost demand and create much needed jobs in the building industry.”

Richard Lloyd, executive director at the consumer group Which?:

“It’s difficult to see how hard-pressed homeowners will have confidence in how the ‘green deal’ might work for them if the suggested savings are initially based on averages rather than on their personal energy use.

“The ‘golden rule’ was supposed to reassure people that green deal repayments would not exceed the savings made on energy bills. But if this is based on average figures then it could be meaningless for many.

“The government estimates that average household energy bills will be 7% lower than they would have been by 2020 because of new energy and climate policies. But this is based on the big assumption that schemes like the Green Deal will appeal to consumers. If take-up is lower than expected, energy bills will be pushed up even further.

Steps have already been taken to reassure those that have raised concerns about the Green Deal.

The treasury announced shortly after the scheme was launched that £200 million had been set aside to fund incentives to those who take up the scheme in it’s early stage. Although it has yet to be determined quite what form these incentives will take, further cash-back offers, discounts on council tax and cuts to stamp duty have all been suggested.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said:

“I can announce today that as part of the Autumn Statement we will provide £200m of funding for new and additional support to enable a special time-limited ‘introductory offer’ for the Green Deal.

“An offer that could save early adopters hundreds of pounds.

“A fund to get the Green Deal off to a flying start.

“One that will work with the Green Deal mechanism and the ECO to motivate thousands of more consumers to take up energy efficiency measures, over the next two years.”

The almost immediate announcement of this incentive fund indicates the strength of will within the government to make the Green Deal a success.

Scottish Businesses missing out on Feed-in-Tariff

A survey recently carried out by Scottish Renewables has revealed that the nation’s businesses are missing out on much needed revenue and profits because of a lack of investment in renewable energy technologies and a lack of understanding of the Feed-in-Tariff.

Scottish Renewables compiled a record of all the registrations made for Feed-in-Tariffs over the last year. They found that 95% of all registrations were made by homeowners. In comparison just 3.6% of registrations were made by businesses.

A further breakdown of the figures revealed that on average there were 326 domestic Feed-in-Tariff registrations per month as opposed to just 3 registrations a month for commercial and industrial installations. The specific breakdown for wind turbines were slightly more evenly balanced; 27 domestic turbine registrations a month and 8 a month for industrial and commercial purposes. This would suggest that the benefits of a wind turbine is more apparent to those businesses that have the opportunity (in terms of available land etc) than other forms of renewable generation.

Feed-in-tariffs work as follows.

The owner of a renewable energy generator is paid for every unit of electricity that they are producing. There are two seperate tariffs; the Generation Tariff is a set rate which is paid for every unit of electricity generated, even if the owner uses it to power their own home or business, the Export tariff is a set rate which is paid for every unit that is exported into the National Grid. Feed-in-tariffs are set at a fixed rate from the time at which a generator is operational and connected to the National Grid for a period of twenty years.

Daniel Borieswitz, Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables released the following statement:

“Scottish businesses are missing out on a huge opportunity to not only to produce their own electricity but also receive up to 8% return on their investment by installing renewable technologies.

“It is clear that the public are already very much on board with the Feed-in-Tariff with domestic installations accounting for 17MW of installed capacity in the last year, but we need to encourage companies to take full advantage of these payments offered by the government especially if they are to meet their own carbon and environmental targets.

“With the Renewable Heat Incentive expected soon this is an ideal time for businesses to think seriously about how they can harness the natural resources on their doorsteps to power their companies.”

It is very much true that the Feed-in-Tariff offers a unique opportunity in these economically uncertain times for businesses to access a steady revenue stream and a substantial return on their investments. Businesses such as golf clubs, supermarkets, industrial estates and all manner of rural companies are being presented with a huge opportunity. A company such as ours with experience of both the planning process and working with such businesses can help to capitalize on this situation.

ScottishPower to create 1500 jobs to modernise grid

ScottishPower announced this week that in the next ten years they intend to invest £3 billion in modernising the National Grid. Not only will this help Scotland substantially in achieving the ambitious 100% renewable energy target for 2020 but it will create around 1500 new jobs in the sector.

The company needs the new staff for several reasons. Firstly there are a number of infrastructure overhauls that need to be carried out to improve the currently antiquated National Grid. Currently there are renewable energy projects across the country which are being constrained by the inadequate level of access the current Grid offers. To combat this ScottishPower intends to upgrade around 500 miles of overhead power lines, upgrade almost a fifth of their substation equipment and almost treble the current capacity of grid links with England to a level of 6.6 gigawatts. ScottishPower has stated that they intend to connect 11 gigawatts of renewable energy to the grid during this 10 year period; an amount four times as much as generated by Longannet Power Station.  The planned increase of link capacity to England would be a huge enabler for Scotland’s ambitious renewable energy targets. It would allow for a far larger scale of energy exportation than is currently possible. This is important not only because of the benefits to the Scottish economy that selling large amounts of electricity to England would bring but also because of the energy exchange it would allow. England has taken a different approach to the problem of energy generation, with nuclear power expected to play a big part in meeting English energy needs in the future. 6.6 gigawatts worth of grid links would allow Scotland not only to export energy at times of excess capacity but would allow for importation of nuclear power at peak times if demand were to outstrip supply.

Secondly, research carried out by ScottishPower indicates that 4 out of 5 energy industry employees are due to retire over the next 15 years. As a result of this a new generation of employees; a large number of apprentices and graduates are needed in the industry. The first wave will be recruited over the next three or four years as 200 graduate and apprentice positions are expected to become available.

Investment in the gird is expected to save the Scottish taxpayer a significant amount of money over the next twenty years. Constraint payments (payments made to electricity generators who turn off at times of excess supply as compensation) would increasingly become an issue if large amounts of electricity generation capacity were added to the current grid system, indeed without investment it is estimated that constraint payments would increase to £16 billion by 2030. Savings to the taxpayer are estimated as a result of increased capacity is estimated at £1.6 billion by 2021 and £11 billion by 2030.

ScottishPower chief executive Frank Mitchell released the following statement:

“Massive investment is required to ensure that Scotland’s electricity network is fit for the 21st century.

“It is important that we have a modern and robust network to support our renewable energy ambitions and to provide reliability for those who generate electricity and the homes and businesses that rely on it.

“It is no secret that our industry has an ageing workforce, and we need to encourage new blood in to the fold.”

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond commented on the news:

“ScottishPower’s plans to upgrade transmission will ensure the grid is capable of carrying increasing supplies of clean green energy generated to domestic and European markets

“With plans to harness up to 10 gigawatts of offshore capacity in Scottish waters by 2020, alongside other renewable sources, it will be essential that generators can distribute power to where it is needed.

“These plans will create hundreds of new jobs and underline the company’s commitment to Scotland, as we work together to pursue a low carbon future for these islands and Europe.”

Other industry figures also released their reactions to the news, with some more overwhelmingly positive than others. Neil Stuart, chief executive officer of Scottish Renewables: “This announcement from ScottishPower is not only good news in terms of creating jobs and investment but is also a clear sign that barriers faced by some developers in connecting to the grid will be lifted.”

Norman Kerr, director of Energy Action Scotland: “There  are already a number of hidden charges on energy users’ bills and if any further collection of monies to fund this type of work is required, it must be made very transparent.

“This kind of investment has surely been paid by consumers already through the profits made by the fuel companies over the last few years.”

The announcement of these plans, following as it does in quick succession the launch of the Scottish Government’s Renewable Roadmap 2020 and the forthcoming Agri-Renewables Strategy sends a clear sign to investors and developers that Scotland is committed to the development of renewable energy and that industry, government and business are pulling in the same direction. Welcome and encouraging news for sure.

The Scotland on Sunday and Us.

Another article appeared in the national press on our work this week.  The article, appearing in the Scotland on Sunday, not only outlined the history of Intelligent Land Investments as a company but also underlined the long term benefits we are hoping to bring to farmers and landowners up and down the country. As our Chief Executive Officer Mark Wilson said: “The Scottish Government’s feed-in tariff has revolutionised how much farmers and landowners can make through wind power. They could get up to £30,000 a year, guaranteed for the next 20 years.”

The guaranteed nature of this sum could be hugely important for Scottish Agriculture. A number of the farmers we work with have indicated to us that they intend to re-invest the money generated from the turbines into their existing farm business. The hiring of new staff and the purchasing of new agricultural machinery are things that can not only support fragile local economies in tough times but also increase yields. It has recently been announced that food and drink are now Scotland’s biggest exports so our turbines could perhaps benefit the Scottish economy at both the micro and macro level. Equally as important, of course, is the piece of mind that a guaranteed income can provide for those working in a difficult industry.

The comments, or rather comment, section is also worth a read due to the interesting, if untrue, conspiracy theory outlined by one reader.

The article can be found here. All thanks to Peter Ranscombe.