Scotland’s New Energy Strategy

Scotland’s New Energy Strategy

It is anticipated that the Scottish Government will launch its new Draft Energy Strategy next week and there has been a number of calls from environmental groups and industry figures for tough new targets and initiatives which could potentially aid in the reduction of our greenhouse gas emissions.

At present the Scottish Government has set the ambitious target of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. There are a number of factors which can lead to this and decarbonising the energy system is a key element.

The current target of 100% of domestic electricity generation to come from renewable sources is well on the way to being achieved having already reached the 2020 interim target of 50%. In 2015 59% of the domestic electricity was generated from renewable sources.

However there are no current targets for heat generation and transport and there are growing voices stating that all power needs should be included within any new targets should we have a realistic chance of making our overall emission reduction goal. Their main aim is include all power generation in our renewable energy target and although they concede that this may make 100% by 2030 impossible 50% of all power generation from renewable sources by 2030 isn’t.

RSPB Scotland has claimed that the Scottish Government has a monumental opportunity to transform the power system and state that more renewable energy projects of the right type in the right place that take consideration of the local environment are key to achieving climate ambitions and have announced ten recommendations they believe will help in getting it done. This includes developing innovative new technology such as floating wind turbines, which could minimise the potential impact on nature, as well as improving energy-efficiency to reduce wastage. “Committing to sourcing 50 per cent of Scotland’s energy from renewable sources by 2030 would send out a strong message that Scotland is dedicated to achieving its 2050 climate target whilst also protecting our amazing wildlife,” said Aedán Smith, head of planning and development at RSPB Scotland. “This really is a monumental opportunity for the Scottish Government to commit the country’s future to wildlife-friendly low-carbon energy.

“We’re currently a long way from meeting our 2050 climate target – this Scottish Energy Strategy is the chance for the government to show how serious it is about meeting this.”

Jenny Hogan, director of policy at Scottish Renewables, agrees with the RSPB and said the time is right to look beyond 2020 and set a new 50 per cent target claiming that this would let Scotland continue to build on the economic and environmental benefits the industry is already delivering.

One of the most difficult challenges in achieving 50% of all our power needs coming from renewable sources is heat generation as it accounts for more than half of our energy use and a large number of us use natural gas for this – a high greenhouse gas producer. Therefore the uptake of alternative systems on a national scale would go a long way in assisting our decarbonisation.

One example given which could help changing this is district heating schemes. District heating is much more efficient than individual systems and therefore uses much less carbon emitting fuels.

District heating systems can differ due to location and circumstance however most follow a similar path. Natural heat is extracted from a local body of water such as a river or loch cooling it by approximately 4 degrees. The heat extracted is enough to turn a sealed network of ammonia from a liquid to a gas which, through pressure, can heat water to 90 degrees. That water is then piped into people’s homes to heat their radiators.

Dave Pearson of Glasgow based heat pump installers Star Renewable Energy spoke to the BBC as to why these systems are not more commonly used. “I think it is a slightly abstract concept that we can harvest a river for heat. Rivers are quite chilly already.

“But really it’s down to bringing a combination of technology which we’re producing in our factory in Glasgow but also the imagination and the desire of the communities, the cities, the government to see better solutions.”

Prof Janette Webb, from the University of Edinburgh, says Scotland has a source of warm water which could be exploited. “Right across central Scotland, not only have we got a lot of surface water we’ve also got underground mines, which are flooded now, which have water, in the deeper mines anyway, at about 30 degree,” she said. “We could extract heat from that water and use that to heat our buildings.”

A combined heat and power system in Aberdeen is currently heating 2.500 council owned flats and public buildings and providing electricity to the grid. The power is produced by generators and the warm exhaust fumes create the heat. The long term plan is to convert the system to heat pumps using sea water.

Ian Booth, from Aberdeen Heat and Power, said: “Once the infrastructure is built you could actually bolt on at the front end other technologies as they improve.

“We’re replacing electric heating systems with a combined heat and power fuelled system. The impact on the environment is about a 40% reduction on carbon.”

It should be pointed out however that heat pump technology is not carbon free and it uses electricity which as coming from the national grid may or may not be from renewable sources.

If a large amount of homes and business do shift from gas fired heating to heat pumps then due to the grid being much less carbonised it will make a significant difference in terms carbon emissions.

There will be obstacles to attaining this though. Many homes are already equipped to be heated by gas or oil and the change they will be expensive. There is no reason however to why new builds cannot be fitted with this alternative technology instead.

Plus as the technology advance the costs will fall and the savings to be made at consumer level it will not be long before making the switch from gas or oil to heat pumps becomes commercially viable.

In order to reach that point though we need strong guidance, targets, and initiatives from the government in their draft energy strategy. We therefore look forward to reading what they propose.

 

 

 

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