The renewable energy sector in Scotland

The renewable energy sector in Scotland

A report on the renewable energy industry in Scotland was published by the Scottish Affairs Committee this week. In it the Committee confirms that exceptional growth of the industry this millennium has been a direct result of positive government support. The industry is now estimated to employ 21,000 people and generates 30% of the UK’s renewable electricity from diverse sources including wind, hydro, and biomass.

However the Committee also issued a warning that recent changes in government policy threaten the industry and are likely to undermine the recent successes and damage the sector for the foreseeable future.

Pete Wishart MP, the Committee Chair said “We have urged the government to clarify the future support which will be available to the renewable sector, and set out how they will work with the Scottish Government to develop a clear, long-term plan that will allow renewable energy to remain a central part of the energy mix”.

The Committee however do concede that cutting costs is a challenge that the renewable energy industry must embrace if it is to continue to grow. Last month we discussed the Scottish Renewables report which claims that the cost to produce renewable energy could be reduced by 20%. According to the report the most effective change which could be incorporated to reduce costs is to make the planning system “smarter.”

However the Committee did recognise that planners still have to find a balance between supporting renewable projects and taking into account the concerns of local residents regarding the impact of such developments in particular onshore wind installations

There is also the issue that energy produced from wind turbines may be lost if produced when not required. The most prevalent solution to this is better energy storage and Callum Craig the Energy and Climate Change spokesperson for the SNP in the Westminster parliament has written to Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Energy, urging his department to invest in new technologies to encourage the production and storage of renewable energy and electricity.

Mr Craig said “For the potential of renewable energy to be fully realised we will continue to need newer and better storage technologies; mastering that is the solution to making renewables as attractive financially as they are environmentally.”

The good news is the National Grid has already awarded contracts to eight projects worth £70 million of energy storage to help stabilise the UK Energy system and protect appliances. This is first time that energy storage will be used in this way.

The service is to be provided at an average cost of £9.44/MW and will cut overall costs by £200m. Cordi O’Hara National Grid system operator director said “We are constantly looking to the future to understand how we can make the most of the energy available to us. These awards show that we can work with industry to bring forward new technology and I believe storage has much to contribute to the flexible energy system of tomorrow. This is the beginning of an exciting new chapter for the industry.”

The next evolution of renewable energy generation will be energy storage. As mentioned above the intermittent nature of renewable energy generation can mean that electricity may be wasted if it produced at a time when it is not required. Wind energy is the most productive and most cost effective method of producing renewable energy however it suffers from this issue the most.

The solution is to find new strategies and processes to store this energy and release it into the grid when required. Energy storage is not a new phenomenon, from the battery in a torch to the one in your phone to the one in your car they come in many different shapes and sizes. However the capacity of a battery is determined by its size. For renewable energy developments something on the large scale industrial size is required and that is just not cost effective.

So new and innovative ideas are required and this what we at ILI energy are working on at present as we believe that the marrying of renewable energy generation and large scale energy storage is the combination which will ensure a clean safe positive energy future for everyone.

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