Time for a new renewables target?

Time for a new renewables target?

As the end of the year approaches and thoughts turn to a new one we realise that we are one year closer to the Scottish Government’s ambitious target of generating 100% of our required energy from renewable sources by 2020. Then we also realise that achieving this is highly unlikely.

However despite the lofty ambitions unlikely to be met energy experts do believe that 50% of energy from renewable sources by 2030 with the correct plans and policies can be achieved.

A new report from WWF Scotland, Friends of the Earth Scotland, and the RSPB Scotland based on analysis from technical company Ricardo Energy and Environment has outlined what will be required to reach this goal at a time when the Scottish Government is beginning to develop a new energy strategy which aims to included multi-party policy ideas including the 50% energy generation target.

The report however warns that the Scottish Government will have to incorporate a number of new measures designed to increase the uptake of renewables in order to reach this new lower target.

“Ministers should now make this a Scottish Government target and bring in the policies needed in its forthcoming energy strategy,” according to WWF Scotland director Lang Banks: “Scotland is already seeing the economic and social benefits of shifting our electricity system to clean, climate-friendly, renewables generation. However, with electricity accounting for just one quarter of our energy use, it’s time to begin to reap the same benefits by increasing the use of renewables in our heat and transport sectors.”

The overall 50% target was also promoted by Scottish Renewables in the 2016 manifesto and Niall Stuart, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, feels that the 2030 target was a move in the right direction: “Scotland’s ambitious climate change and 2020 renewable energy targets have signalled a clear intent for the country to lead the way in the transition to a low-carbon economy – and driven tremendous growth in renewable electricity generation. However, it’s now time to lift our horizons and set an ambitious target to drive investment in renewable heat, power and transport through the 2020s.”

Heat and transport are likely to be the main factors in what we need to do for driving down our non-renewable energy usage whilst onshore wind generation is expected to provide the biggest chunk of renewable energy to grid. By 2016 onshore wind was the largest supplier of renewable energy to the grid in Scotland followed by hydro-power. In February of this year onshore wind provided 40% of the required electricity and in October WeatherEnergy reported the wind power had increased by a third from the previous year.

Also on numerous occasions throughout the last two years Scotland’s onshore wind turbines have provided 50% of the country’s electricity needs.

So while electricity generation at 50% from renewables is an attainable target heat generation poses far more problems. At present only 5% of Scotland’s heat energy is produced from renewable sources. As a result WWF have gone as far to state that a Warm Homes Act is required to ensure cleaner and more affordable heat.

Ricardo Energy and Environment calls for renewable heat generation to be increased to 40% by 2030 by fitting half of all residential properties with hybrid heat pumps as standard. However, the transition could be difficult for customers in terms of unfamiliarity, and it is necessary to therefore offer a large degree of official support alongside this type of roll-out.

Some progress has already been made with renewable heat generation increasing from 1.5% in 2014 to 5.3%. This was due to the non-domestic renewable heat incentive (RHI) which offers financial incentives for generating and using renewable energy to heat buildings.

This type of scheme could be expanded and also potentially include the heat pump installation making it attractive to all consumers.

Another issue is transport energy however the growing use of electric vehicles can means that renewable transport energy is on the increase. Ricardo Energy and Environment hopes that half of all buses and one in three cars will be powered by renewables by 2030. This would result in a 40% decrease in petrol and diesel usage.

The phasing out of petrol and diesel vehicles in countries such as Norway and Denmark is seen as an excellent model for increasing renewable transport energy usage. This has been supported by the governments in both countries and would require similar legislation here.

Higher taxes on high emission vehicles is one such policy which has cited in assisting achieve this. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has recently released their Draft Clean Air Zone Framework which calls for the introduction of Clean Air Zones across five cities in England.  Incentives in this Clean Zone framework, such as lower parking fees, access to bus lanes and priority at traffic lights, could be applied in cities around Scotland in order to encourage future purchases of low emission vehicles.

The target of 50% of all our energy requirements from renewables is a lesser one than we had previously but it has been demonstrated that even that – and with another ten years to achieve – is not going to be an easy task.

That said with our current infrastructure added to a number of progressive government policies, inventive schemes and forward thinking legislation it is certainly possible.

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