Onshore wind continues to grow in Scotland

Onshore wind continues to grow in Scotland

Wind farms in Scotland have been breaking records again. From January to April 2015 they generated enough electricity to power over 950,000 households for a full year. In total 4,452GWh of electricity was generated in the three months from January to April which was a 4.3% rise on the previous record breaking quarter and continues the strong showing from 2014. 49.8% of all electricity used in Scotland in 2014 came from renewable sources as capacity rose 9% over the year to 7.4GW.

Scotland’s Energy Minister Fergus Ewing was delighted with the new figures and the performance of the wind sector of the renewable energy industry, the electricity it generated in the first quarter was enough to power 960,000 homes for a year. However despite this positive news he also warned that the country’s renewable energy and wind power potential was in danger of being curtailed by the UK government plans to halt the subsidies for onshore wind developments. This policy change is likely to stop the progress of 250 onshore wind developments in Scotland.

The Energy and Climate Change secretary Amber Rudd is to visit Scotland at Ewing’s invitation to discuss the new policy and likely negative impact it will have compared to other parts of the country.

Mr Ewing said: “These statistics show renewables continue to go from strength to strength, with almost half of Scotland’s electricity use coming from renewables last year and wind delivering record amounts of power in the first three months of 2015.

“Scotland accounts for around a third of total UK renewables generation. Given the record amounts of power now coming from wind, and a healthy pipeline of wind projects with consent and in planning, the UK Government’s proposals will have a profound and disproportionate impact on Scotland.

“I am pleased Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Amber Rudd has accepted my invitation to come to Scotland this summer to meet with the industry and developers and see the harmful effects this decision will have.

“Onshore wind is one of the most cost effective renewable energies, yet the UK Government’s perverse decision to end support puts this hard work and progress in jeopardy and the Scottish Government will continue to argue against it.”

Head of Policy WWF Scotland, Dr Sam Gardner said: “It’s great to see Scotland’s renewable electricity sector making consistent progress year on year towards its 2020 target. Green electricity is helping to slash carbon emissions, increase energy security and deliver jobs and investment.

“It’s clear that Scotland’s on a journey to a clean energy future, we should embrace this transition and work to secure all its benefits. However, the recent UK Government announcement to cut support to onshore renewables earlier than planned is pulling the rug from underneath the industry at a crucial time, undermining confidence and putting future investment, and all the economic, environmental and health benefits this could bring, at risk.

“Independent engineering analysis for WWF Scotland shows that we can have an almost entirely renewable electricity system by 2030 that provides security of supply and allows Scotland to continue to play to its strengths and to be a net power exporter. However, the UK Government needs to restore confidence to a very nervous energy sector by providing a stable policy framework and a level playing field for onshore wind in competitive auctions.”

The newly revealed statistics also showed that in 2014 19.6% of UK electricity was generated by renewable energy. In the first quarter of 2015 this amount had risen to 22.3%, another record. This meant that renewable energy continued to increase its lead over nuclear generated electricity which came in at 18% for the first quarter of 2015. Carbon heavy fossil fuels continued to produce the most with coal at 30% and gas at 24%.

Onshore wind in particular generated 7.0TWh from January to April, an increase of 4.7%, whilst offshore wind also rose to 4.7TWh, an increase of 6.3%. This was due to both an increase in capacity and strong wind speeds. Solar PV generation showed the most significant gains, increasing by an impressive 60% to 0.8TWh.

Taking into account all energy uses including electricity, heat, and transport, renewable energy generated 7% of all energy used in the UK in 2014, up from 5.7% in 2013. However using the EU’s method of measurement the figure is 6.3% as opposed to 7% which is still up from 2013 but falls well short of the 15% 2020 renewable energy target set by the EU.

Renewable energy has a long and successful history in Scotland. From the hydro-electric instillations developed in the 1950’s to the UK’s largest onshore wind farm at Whitlee the country has utilised its vast renewable sources well and as shown above, continues to do so. The Scottish government is pro-renewables recognising our potential and setting the ambitious target of generating 100% of our electricity via renewable sources by 2020, a target we were on course to meet.

However the change in policy from the UK government has put realising our own targets and those set by the EU in jeopardy. The EU reduction targets for carbon emissions are legally binding and it has already been noted that the UK are behind on their interim targets and need to do more in order to reach the overall targets by 2020. With the halting of the onshore wind subsidies this target will be even more difficult to achieve and at present no definitive contingency policy has been devised.

With the Scottish government being pro-renewables, particularly onshore wind, and the UK government implementing a policy change which effectively halts growth in this industry the outcome of the proposed talks between the two energy ministers will be very interesting. Our hope is that a compromise can be reached allowing Scotland to continue to increase its onshore wind generation capacity whilst at the same time help the UK on a whole achieve its EU carbon emission targets.

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