Category: Community

Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group launches tomorrow

Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group launches tomorrow

This week sees the launch of the Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group. This is a joint partnership between the Scottish Government, Scottish Natural Heritage, RSPB Scotland and four of the countries major developers of large scale windfarms: Vattenfall, RES, SSE and ScottishPower Renewables. All four of these groups will be contributing funding to the Steering Group which will be studying interactions between windfarms and bird populations.

The Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group will be conducting research for the next four years. For the first time data from several operational windfarms will be collated centrally for the first time. This will allow researchers to carry out in-depth study of issues such as population displacement, cumulative impact and collision risk as well as conduct a review of Scotland’s existing and extensive habitat management schemes.

Professor Colin Galbraith who will be the independent chair of the steering group will announce it’s launch tommorow at the AllEnergy conference in Aberdeen. He made the following statement:

“This new research programme is vital to help us understand the interactions between windfarms and birds across Scotland. It is particularly important, and significant, that the industry is working with the Scottish Government, SNH and RSPB to deliver this important initiative over the coming four years, which will help develop a clearer understanding of how to maintain bird populations alongside windfarms.”

Fergus Ewing, Scottish Government Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism commented:

“The Scottish Government is  supporting this important initiative with a view to improving understanding of the relationship between bird populations and wind farms, and it is very positive that the group is already acting as a platform for dialogue and cooperation between the wind industry, conservation groups and Government.

“By reducing uncertainty around such an important environmental issue, the group’s work is supporting a good practise agenda, and our drive for well informed decision making.”

Aedan Smith, Head of Planning and Development for RSPB Scotland stated:

“We warmly welcome the practical support shown by these four companies to the work of the Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group. We hope that cooperation in this area between industry, SNH, Scottish Government and ourselves will get best value from data already collected, with the ultimate aim of a quicker, safer  decision-making process for birds, base don the best available evidence.”

Joss Blamire, Senior Policy Manager at trade body Scottish Renewables observed:

“Over the last few years, the renewables industry has contributed more to research on birds than any other industry. This commitment to bird conservation has been reinforced by this further contribution from these renewable energy companies.

“Having a central hub for this data means the industry is joining the dots to give researchers a fuller picture of exactly how birds interact with wind turbines.

The Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group is another good example of where industry, conservation groups and government can come together to share expertise and information that will lead to an improved understanding of how we build windfarms that will coexist with our natural environment and wildlife without negatively impacting on them.”

The establishment of the Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group is good news for the onshore wind industry for two reasons. Firstly, the long-term nature of the study is indicative of the Scottish Government’s commitment to onshore wind. Secondly, anti-wind turbine groups have long used overinflated claims about the impact of wind turbines on bird  populations in attempts to discredit developments and dampen support for the industry.  Meeting such claims with hard facts and evidence is the best way to address these issues.

 

British Public Support for Renewables Increasing

British Public Support for Renewables Increasing

A series of surveys published over the course of this week has revealed that the UK public’s support of renewable energy has increased despite the concerted efforts of some elements of the media.

Firstly the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) published the latest in its series of Public Attitudes Tracking Surveys, these have been produced since March 2012 and this is the fifth edition. The survey polled over 2000 members of the public and revealed that support for renewable energy is the highest it has been since the surveys were first assembled – 82% of those polled are in favour of renewable energy, an increase of 3% since January 2013. Onshore wind, which has been the primary focus of several negative newspaper campaigns, also saw an increase of support. 64% of those polled in January 2013 were in favour of more onshore wind developments; in March 2013 68% of those polled were in favour. Furthermore the polled level of opposition to further onshore wind developments saw a decrease of 2%, from 13% of those polled in January 2013 to 11% of those polled in March 2013.

A spokesman for DECC was quoted as remarking:

“It suggests the media is really out of kilter with what’s happening in the country.

“Today’s figures are indicative of the long term support for renewables among the British public. This support comes from people’s experience on the ground as developers engage with communities and projects are delivered across the UK.”

Secondly, a poll produced by ComRes for RenewableUK has revealed the influence a politicians stance on wind power has on voters. 76% of those polled were either in favour of or neutral to wind power. 34% indicated that they would be more likely to support a pro-wind politician.

The poll also asked questions about the 2015 General Election. 31% revealed they would be less likely to support a political party due to an anti-wind power stance compared to only 27% who would be more likely to support such a political party. Female voters were revealed to be particularly supportive of wind power with nearly one in three stating they would be less willing to vote for a party which intended to remove support for onshore wind.

Maria McCaffrey, Chief Executive at RenewableUK commented:

“The countdown to the next national election is on, and these results show that those politicians who attack wind farms risk alienating important parts of the electorate – the very people who could decide the next election. We continually see high approval ratings for wind energy, and it’s clear that as voters go to the ballot box they keep that favourability towards wind. For the energy sector to secure the investment needed and to create tens of thousands of jobs over the next decade it’s vital that we see strong political leadership. Today’s results should encourage politicians to do just that.”

The results of these surveys suggest that despite the best efforts of some elements of the media they are failing to influence public opinion. Public support for renewable energy and specifically wind energy is increasing.

Community Benefits

Community Benefits

It is frequently the case that any mooted renewable energy development will also propose to establish a community benefit of some sort.

Most often this benefit takes the form of an annual charitable donation or  annual funding given to a local community group to direct where it is felt to be most needed. Community benefits are often one of the most important aspects of any proposed development ;and certainly one of the most relevant to local communities. However, it can be argued that community benefits are frequently one of the less publicised elements of any development. Developers and, it must be said, Local Authorities often fail to successfully get their message across.Debate is often led up the path of spurious speculation on health rather than the concrete benefits developments can bring in these times of ever decreasing central and local funding

In our experience, the potential for community benefits to be lost in the debate over development is not helped by the fact that there is little consistency across Local Authority areas in how such funding is not just collected or administered but if it is even required. For some Local Authorities community benefits are collected and managed by the Local Authority itself; such as in South Lanarkshire. It may be the case that only developments above a certain scale  are required to produce a community benefit. In some councils providing a community benefit is not considered to be mandatory. The lack of consistency between Local Authorities in the requirements for community benefits could be argued to be real hindrance to renewable energy developments in this country. Community benefits are often the most immediately palpable positive part of a development but their impact may be heavily diluted by a lack of public awareness or expectation. Perhaps if community benefits were more widely promoted by both developers and local authorities it would enable local communities to engage more fully with the arguments surrounding potential developments.

We at Intelligent Land Investments would like, at this time, to stress that all of our developments proposed, consented or constructed includes a community benefit regardless of whether one is required by the local authority. Frequently in cases where we are paying into a council managed fund we are paying more than required by that council. In all of the cases in which there is no requirement for a community benefit  we sought out a local charity working widely within the local authority area of a development, helping the vulnerable of that community, ran by members of that community for the benefit of that community.

The Scottish Government has taken some steps to promote and publicise community benefits but more could be done.

The Community Benefit Register, launched last year, which can be found here provides details of all of the community benefits provided by constructed renewable developments. However it is not mandatory to register community benefits on the website let alone mandatory to provide them. More standardisation of community benefits across local authority areas could prove to be extremely beneficial. For instance making the provision of community benefits mandatory across the country would shift the debate from promoting their existence to promoting not just the good work they could fund but the good work they are already funding. We at Intelligent Land Investments feel that promoting such work would have more impact than promoting the difference in projected energy bill pricing between a renewables and fossil fuel based energy system.

 

A Good Week

A Good Week

Last week saw good news for us here at Intelligent Land Investments as we saw five of our sites gain planning approval over the course of a few days. This acceleration of sites coming through the planning process is the result of much hard work over the last year in signing up, assessing and making the case for our sites to communities and councils.

The five sites are in Local Authority Areas across the country including Aberdeenshire and South Lanarkshire; two areas of great wind resource, arable land and grid development. In total they add up to over a megawatt of renewable energy which will be constructed, connected to the National Grid and generating renewable electricity over the course of the next few months.

Good news for ourselves but more importantly good news for the farmers and landowners which we work with. The benefits of renewable energy should not be reaped solely by those landowners and developers able to develop large scale windfarms. The feed-in-tariff, as we are demonstrating, can be accessed by a much higher proportion of the population. People to which the revenue from a wind turbine, such as those consented last week, can be a game-changer  At a time when the UK’s agricultural sector is coming under increasing pressure from poor weather, higher costs and reduced governmental support the work companies such as ourselves are doing can make a real difference for farmers across the country.

Good news for communities across the country as well as money from every one of these turbines (as well as all of our other sites) will be used to support community groups, projects and charities in every one of the Local Authority Areas in which we are operating. At a time when funding for such vital work is being squeezed we are delighted to be able to make a contribution.

Good news too for both the UK and Scottish Governments. We are contributing to both parliaments meeting their renewable energy generation targets along with the rest of our industry. Over the past few years Renewable Energy has been one of the few industries in the UK able to create both growth and jobs

The benefits that renewable energy generation can bring to farmers across the country were promoted by the NFU (National Farmers Union) in the run up to their annual conference this week. Noting that British agricultural yields and productivity have dropped to levels not seen since the 1980s (largely attributed to last years poor weather) it was revealed that in 2012 an estimated one in five NFU members produced renewable electricity on their land. The NFU is encouraging more of it’s members to explore the opportunites available to them:

“2012 was a difficult year for the farming community, with bad weather hitting incomes hard. Investing in renewable energy provides farmers and growers with additional earnings at a time when farm budgets have become very stretched.” – Dr Jonathan Scurlock, NFU Chief Advisor for renewable energy and climate change.

Maria McCaffrey, Chief Executive of RenewableUK received the news enthusiastically:

“Farmers are experts at harnessing the Earth’s natural resources, so it’s no surprise that they are leading the way on wind energy. The UK has the most powerful wind resource in Europe and this has provided a vital source of income for farmers, helping to preserve rural communities in Britain.”

It is our hope that the good news continues to come in, not just for ourselves but for all of our landowners.

Scottish Renewables Industry set to surpass £1 billion investment for 2012

Scottish Renewables Industry set to surpass £1 billion investment for 2012

It was announced this week that investment levels in the Scottish renewables industry are at record breaking levels. In the first six months of 2012 alone over £900 million was invested into the industry; £801 million of which went into onshore wind. In comparison £750 million was invested in the industry in the whole of 2011. Investment levels are confidently expected to top £1 billion by the end the year and could reach a figure as high as one £1.5 billion.

Niall Ferguson, Chief Executive of trade-body Scottish Renewables greeted the news at the Scottish Green Awards earlier in the week:

“We learnt that we smashed the 2011 renewable electricity target, that the sector supports  some 11,000 jobs, is making a massive dent in carbon emissions, and output has again hit record levels.

“DECC figures show that Scotland’s renewable energy sector delivered some £900 million of investment in the first six months of 2012, putting us firmly on course to exceed an annual total of £1 billion for the first time in the industry’s history.

“More than £800 million of this came from onshore wind, showing the importance of the sector during a challenging time for Scotland’s economy. That investment is of course supporting thousands of jobs across Scotland in project management, civil engineering, professional services and operations and maintenance.

“This year could see more than double the level of capital projects delivered than in 2011.We attracted around £750 million of investment in the entire year of 2011 and more than £900 million in the just six months of 2012. If we continue at this rate there’s a good chance we could see in excess of £1.5 billion of capital projects.

Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing also commented on the news, issuing the following statement:

“Scotland’s clean green energy resources are delivering thousands of jobs and hundreds of thousands of pounds of investment to communities across Scotland.

“These figures show the size of the prize renewable energy is offering to the people of Scotland, with renewable energy investment in Scotland now set to exceed £1 billion in 2012 alone.

“The list of recent companies investing, or planning to invest, in Scotland’s renewable energy future shows that Scotland is increasingly the destination of choice for renewable energy investment.”

Another announcement served to further hammer home the point of just how much renewable energy, and particularly onshore wind, is contributing to the Scottish economy. A survey produced by the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) shows that £1 of every £8 spent on infrastructure projects in Scotland is coming from investment in renewable energy.

CECA Scotland’s chairman Roger Philpott commented; “We’re not surprised the renewables sector is providing more than 15 per cent of Scotland’s annual £2 billion civil engineering outturn. It’s right up there with Scottish Water and Scottish Transport.”

It is hoped that the good news can continue to flow in for the Scottish renewables industry into the new year.

Scottish Government unveils new planning guidance for wind developments

Scottish Government unveils new planning guidance for wind developments

A few weeks ago the Scottish Government unveiled new planning guidance for wind energy developments.

This set of best practise guidelines is intended to speed up the planning process for developers as well as making it easier for planning authorities, affected communities and developers to assess proposals.

Much of the guidance is devoted to encouraging the closer involvement of communities in proposed developments from the earliest possible stage as well as seeking to minimise environmental impacts.

The guidance has been produced as a result of the GP (Good Practise) Wind Project, a European Union project led by the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Government drew up the guidelines in consultation with a number of relevant bodies including Scottish Power Renewables, the RSPB, Scottish and Southern Energy and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (the Western Isles Council).

The guidance was launched by the Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing:

“I’m delighted to launch these materials, developed with industry, planning authorities and stakeholders, which aim to make the planning process for wind developments go more smoothly for everyone involved.

“The Scottish Government wants to see the right developments in the right places, and this guidance will help to ensure that – while also making sure there are fewer unsuitable applications and that communities are properly consulted and informed.

“We have set an ambitious, but achievable, renewable energy target and we are determined to ensure that communities all over Scotland benefit from our renewable energy revolution, which is already bringing jobs and investment.

“But we are determined that this should be done in a sustainable way, sympathetic to the needs of communities and protecting the environment and our fantastic natural heritage.

“This project supports our drive to promote engagement with communities and consultees from the beginning of a plan’s development.”

Representatives of the Government’s consultees also commented on the launch of the guidance. Councillor Angus Campbell, Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar stated:

“Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is pleased to have had the opportunity to participate in the GP Wind project. As an island community on the edge of Europe, the Outer Hebrides stands to lose the most from the impacts of Climate Change but these islands are also home to one of the best wind and wave resources in Europe.

“If we are to decarbonise our energy supply, it is vital that the boundless energy resource in areas like the Outer Hebrides is accessed but that this is done in an environmentally responsible way.  In this process, we need to address and resolve the challenges which currently hamper the implementation of wind generation, on and offshore, across Europe.

“We view GPWIND as a huge step forward in building a collective understanding of these challenges and the outputs of GPWIND will help us to develop and sustain good practice, enabling our area to become a power house for Europe while sustaining and developing fragile communities.”

David Gardner, Director of SSE Renewables (onshore) remarked:

“SSE Renewables is pleased to be a partner in the Good Practice Wind Project. All development projects should be constructed and operated in a responsible way and SSE Renewables is committed to this.

“Many other countries across Europe will benefit from Scotland demonstrating a leading role in delivering good practice in renewable energy development, but we can always learn to do better, and sharing good practice across the industry in this way is a very positive step.”

Aedan Smith, the Head of Planning and Development at RSPB Scotland commented:

“We are very pleased to have had the opportunity to work with the Scottish Government and other partners from across Europe on the GP Wind project.  Given the challenge facing wildlife and people from climate change, we support the continued development of an environmentally sustainable wind energy industry as a proven way to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“However, wind energy developments must be sited and designed to avoid damaging our best places for wildlife.  The good practice guide and toolkit produced by the GP Wind project should help ensure this happens. We encourage all those involved in the development of wind energy to apply good practice in line with the guide.”

If these new guidelines are successful in speeding up the planning process for wind developments then communities up and down the country will reap the benefits.

 

 

Onshore Wind brings substantial economic benefits

Onshore Wind brings substantial economic benefits

A new report, produced jointly, by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the industry trade body RenewableUK has studied in-depth the impact of onshore wind upon both local economies and the national economy.

The report examined 18 wind farm sites of different sizes from across the UK. The contribution made by wind farm development, construction, operation and maintenance to the British economy was observed at local, regional and national level.

It was found that the total onshore wind market was worth  £548 million to the UK economy in the year 2011 alone. Additionally, over 9,000 jobs were supported by the industry. Perhaps even more interestingly, it was found that for every megawatt of onshore wind capacity installed in the UK £700,000 was added to GDP. Over £100,000 of which remains within the Local Authority area that the development is located.

If the UK was to achieve the target of 13GW of installed onshore wind capacity by 2020, set out in the Renewable Energy Roadmap, then the contribution to annual GDP would rise to £780 million and approximately 11,600 jobs would be supported. A figure which rises to 15,500 if ancillary jobs are included. These figures would then suggest that onshore wind is already making a major contribution to the British economy, particularly at a local level.

UK Energy Minister Ed Davey described onshore wind as “a cost effective and valuable part of the UK’s diverse energy mix”, at the publication of this report, going on to say further:

“Not only does wind power provide secure, low carbon power to homes and businesses, it supports jobs and brings significant investment up and down the country too.

“Our policies of increasing community involvement will also help to ensure the right balance between developers and community interests.

“With the cost of the technology coming down, there is a real opportunity to reap the economic benefits onshore wind can bring.”

Perhaps most interestingly, it was found that one of every three local jobs created by onshore wind developments is in the operation or maintenance sector.

Which is to say that these are long term jobs in the local area. This sort of job creation is of particular importance to Local Authorities and is very much a consideration in planning decisions.

The question of the supply chain is also raised in the report; specifically how much of the work required for onshore wind developments is carried out within the UK. It is found that many of the 8,000 components required to manufacture a turbine are, or could be, produced within this country, reaching the conclusion that; “many activities relating to the development of wind farms are already carried out by UK based businesses. As the sector develops, there are likely to be opportunities to increase this activity.”

The reports findings were greeted by RenewableUK’s chief executive Maria McCaffrey:

“This study explains why in rural areas 68% of people support wind, and 57% of those living in rural areas recognise that wind brings benefits in terms of jobs, 12% more than those in urban areas.

“Rather than feeling that wind has been imposed on them, real people across the UK are recognising the benefits of having wind in their backyard, and with Government’s help we’ll continue to build on the 8600 people employed across the country because of onshore wind, as promised by our members in the “Wind Energy Charter“.

“Whilst we can see that with increased deployment comes both increased value and jobs added, plus an increase in market share for the UK, if we were to only see 10GW come forward jobs will actually be lost in the development and construction phases, and there will be no increase in our market share. So it’s therefore essential for UK growth and employment to keep onshore wind progressing and revitalising communities.”

It could be argued that as the economic benefits of onshore wind become more apparent they become more difficult to refute.

 

 

Good News for Scottish Renewables Industry

Good News for Scottish Renewables Industry

There was much good news for the Scottish Renewables Industry this week; not only was it revealed that Scotland’s interim renewable energy generation target has been surpassed but also a report was published which revealed the impact the fledgling industry is having on the country’s employment levels.

The Scottish Government had set a target for 31% of the country’s electric energy demand to be met by renewables by this year; currently renewables are providing 35% of the electricity used in the country. The 35% figure has been achieved by an increase in installed capacity in a variety of renewable technologies. For instance, in 2011 there was 7049 GWh (Giga-watt hours) of electricity produced from wind turbines. This was an increase of 45% from 2010 and more than double the amount generated from wind in 2007.

Hydro-electricity also saw it’s best ever year for electricity generation; producing 5310 GWh of energy. This was an increase of 62.6% from 2010 although it should be noted that 2010 was a year of comparatively low rain fall. However it was still an increase of 8.9% compared to 2009 levels; 2009 was hydro-electricity’s previous best year.

The news that the interim generation target had been surpassed was greeted with much enthusiasm. Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing remarked:

“It’s official – 2011 was a record breaker, with enough green electricity being produced in Scotland to comfortably beat our interim target. And Scotland met almost 40% of the UK’s renewable output in 2011, demonstrating how much the rest of the UK needs our energy. We are seeing great progress towards our goal of generating the equivalent of 100% of Scotland’s electricity needs from renewables by 2020.

“Projects representing £750 million of investment were switched on in 2011, with an investment pipeline of £46 billion. And since the turn of the year, we have seen Gamesa invest in Leith creating over 800 new jobs, the Green Investment Bank being head-quartered in Edinburgh and Samsung Heavy Industries announcing it will base its £100 million European offshore wind project in Methil, creating up to 500 jobs.

“Alongside securing those major developments, we have taken real steps to ensure that communities all over Scotland will benefit from the renewable energy generated in their area.

“Scotland is a genuine world leader in green energy and our targets reflect the scale of our natural resources, the strength of our energy capabilities and the value we place on creating new, sustainable industries.”

Niall Stuart, chief executive of Scottish Renewables:

“This is a fantastic achievement for our industry and for Scotland.

“When the interim target of 31 per cent was set it was seen as ambitious but yet again the renewables sector in Scotland has grown further and faster than predicted, achieving 35 per cent, and that’s why we are confident we can meet the 2020 target.

“These figures are further proof that this industry is a major part of our energy sector. As well as supporting 11,000 jobs in Scotland and helping attract massive investment, renewable energy is now delivering more than a third of the electricity consumed by Scottish households and businesses.

“Renewables is now a major part of our energy mix and a major part of our economy, and the sector is making a key contribution to the fight on climate change. Last year the sector displaced over 5 million tonnes of CO2 – around 10 per cent of Scotland’s total carbon emissions.

“There are many challenges ahead if we are to keep growing. Government must continue to focus on delivering grid connections, getting the right balance in the planning system, and supporting investment in clean energy. By doing so we will make further progress in cutting emissions and securing more jobs for the future.

Stan Blackley, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland: “Our research has shown that, with some modest investment in energy efficiency  and demand reduction, Scotland could produce 130% of its electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020 and 180% by 2030. In doing so we could ensure a reliable supply of clean electricity and phase out Scotland’s thermal power stations.”

In other news, Scottish Renewables released a report detailing the number of jobs that the Scottish Renewables industry is currently supporting.

In total there are around 11,000 people in Scotland employed in jobs supporting the renewables industry. The majority of these jobs are in the direct supply chain; 8701 to be exact. 1526 people are directly employed in renewable energy development and a further 909 people are employed in academia and the wider public sector. When broken down by sector onshore wind is the largest employer with 2235 employees; 943 are employed in offshore wind, and 1410 are employed in bioenergy. A further 3223 are employed in the National Grid and it’s supply chain.

Niall Stuart, chief executive of Scottish Renewables issued the following statement to accompany the report:

“The report shows that renewables are not only a major part of our energy mix, they are now a major part of our economy and our daily working lives, supporting more than 11,000 jobs across Scotland.

“The report also highlights that for every job in renewable energy development, there are around six more in the direct supply chain.

“These numbers are actually just the tip of the iceberg, with many thousands more employees supported indirectly by the growth of the renewables sector which have not been captured by this study.

“Renewable energy development is bringing in much needed investment to the wider economy, which is providing opportunities for businesses and people from a wide range of sectors; whether it be electricians, tradesmen and skippers of work boats, or lawyers, consultants, civil engineers and architects.

“These jobs are spread throughout the country, in both urban and rural areas: Glasgow, Fife and Edinburgh are already established as important centres for offshore wind development; Aberdeen is a major centre for offshore engineering; the Highlands and Islands are leading the development of the emerging wave and tidal sector; and bioenergy is providing jobs across rural Scotland from Lochaber to Morayshire to Dumfries and Galloway.

“A clear pattern emerges from speaking to employers that these numbers are expected to grow over the year ahead and beyond, as the relatively new industry continues to expand. Gamesa’s decision last week to come to Leith reinforces the scale of this opportunity.

“As a growth sector, it also offers new opportunities for the existing workforce and business base in parts of the economy which have been hit by the downturn.

“With continued political support, the right market framework, the right balance in the planning system, and investment in grid and ports and harbour infrastucture, we will ensure the creation of many thousands more jobs in this exciting sector.”

The announcements made this week demonstrate the great strides being made by the Scottish Renewables industry in terms of attracting investment, creating jobs and generating ever greater amounts of electricity.

Chris Huhne comes out fighting for Renewable Energy

Chris Huhne comes out fighting for Renewable Energy

Chris Huhne’s speech to the RenewableUK Conference

“Our location is rather appropriate. Manchester was the thumping heart of the industrial revolution. This was the world’s first industrial city. It is home to the first industrial canal, and the world’s oldest railway station.

The foundations for our prosperity were laid here. The engines which drove Britain’s extraordinary economic growth were built here – from the spinning mule to the steam engine.

We could not have picked a better place to discuss their modern equivalents.

Revolution

Renewable energy technologies will deliver a third industrial revolution. Its impact will be every bit as profound as the first two. My argument today is a simple one: the revolution has already begun.

From the Western Isles to the Isle of Wight – across the length and breadth of Britain. New companies are creating new jobs, delivering the technologies that will power our future.

As we look to pull ourselves out of recovery and back to prosperity, renewable energy can light the way.

Today, I want to look at the contribution renewable energy is making to our economy right now. The investment it is sparking, the jobs it is delivering, the growth it is creating.

And I will look at what we can to do encourage that growth – and sustain those jobs.

But first, I want to take aim at the faultfinders and curmudgeons who hold forth on the impossibility of renewables – the unholy alliance of climate sceptics and armchair engineers who are selling Britain’s ingenuity short.

Renewables are too expensive”, they cry. “They cannot deliver energy at scale.

“They are uneconomic, unreliable and unwanted.”

It is time to retire these myths.

Money

Let us start with the most egregious: that renewables are too expensive; that they could not exist without public subsidy; that they are held up by government cash alone.

Last year, global investment in renewable energy rose by 32% to $211 billion. And $142 billion of that was new financial investment, which excludes government and corporate R&D.

Renewables are grabbing a large and growing share of new energy investment.

Yes, some of that investment is attracted by public subsidy. But globally, subsidies for fossil fuels outstrip subsidies for renewables by a factor of five.

We subsidise renewables to bring on deployment and reduce costs. And we’ve seen some remarkable successes.

Right now, support for renewable energy costs the average household less than sixpence a day. But decades of underinvestment in energy efficiency and reliance on fossil fuels costs us much, much more.

About half of the average household bill goes on wholesale gas and electricity costs. These costs are highly volatile, and as Ofgem make clear, the higher gas price is the real reason bills have been going up over the past eight years.

That is why we need a flexible energy portfolio.

And that’s where the counter-argument of the climate sceptics falls down. “Forget wind farms”, they say. “Shale gas will be our saviour. We should abandon everything else.”

I don’t believe government should pick winners. And if you do, I refer you to a Department of Trade and Industry white paper from 2004 that estimated oil would reach $23 per barrel by 2010. Even last year my own Department forecast oil at $80 per barrel. Brent crude is currently trading at $110 per barrel.

Lashing our economy to a single energy source is a risky business.

We don’t yet know the full extent of shale gas here; how economically or environmentally viable it will be to extract, or by when. At best, it is years away.

Unconventional gas has not yet lit a single room nor cooked a single roast dinner in the UK.

Yet those who clamour loudest for “realistic” energy policies would have us hitch our wagon to shale alone. Shale gas may be significant. It is exciting. But we do not yet know enough to bet the farm on it. Faced with such uncertainty we do what any rational investor does with their own pension fund – we spread our risks, we have a portfolio.

Capacity

The second fallacy is that renewables cannot deliver energy reliably or at scale.

But today, more than 10 gigawatts of our electricity capacity is renewable. That’s enough to power six million homes.

And with every passing year, renewable energy takes over another percentage point of global electricity capacity.

In 2007, 5% of the world’s electricity was renewable. In 2008, it was 6%. In 2009, 7%. And last year, 8%. And it’s still growing. More than a third of the new capacity added last year – some 60GW – was from non-hydro renewables. The message is clear: when we build new power plants, increasingly we choose renewables.

In fact, renewable energy can make our system more secure – not less. According to the International Energy Agency, renewables increase the diversity of electricity sources, making energy systems more flexible – and more resistant to shocks.

Yes, some renewable technologies are intermittent. But the Committee on Climate Change estimates that even with 65% of our energy provided by renewables in 2030, intermittency may cost just 1p per kilowatt hour.

And providing back-up for intermittent renewables is just not that expensive. We already swing from a low of demand of 40GW to a high of 80GW every day. Peaking plant has long been part of our mix. Without such backup the nation’s kettles would be cold in the Coronation St ad breaks.

Every year, renewable energy is attracting more investment and delivering more capacity. It is also gathering more support. One hundred and nineteen countries have renewable energy targets or policies – up from an estimated 55 just six years ago.

Attractiveness

That brings me to the third great misconception about renewable energy: that it is unwanted.

Earlier this year, Ipsos MORI polled a thousand UK adults on which energy source they preferred. By a clear margin, people favoured renewables.

Eighty-eight per cent of those polled viewed solar power favourably; 82% for wind, 76% for hydroelectric, 57% for biomass.

The highest placed traditional energy source for electricity was gas, at 56%.

Seventy-three per cent of people would support a new wind farm in their area, as opposed to just 21% for a new coal plant.

When you get behind the headlines, you find that support for renewable energy is strong – and growing.

And so is its contribution to our economy.

Economy

Across the United Kingdom, renewables are providing jobs, investment and growth.

And the numbers are really starting to add up.

Over the last financial year, nearly 4,500 new jobs were created in the low-carbon sector, which grew by 4.3%.

Fifty-one thousand and six hundred companies in Britain provide low-carbon and environmental goods and services. Exports are now £11.3 billion, up 3.9%.

By Christmas we will have 3GW of biomass installed, and by Easter 5GW of onshore wind. In the past seven months alone, plans for £1.69 billion of investment and 9,500 jobs have been announced.

Here in the North West, more than 950 jobs: 340 at the Siemens Renewable Energy Engineering Centre, just a few miles down the road; up to 600 over the next decade at Cammell Laird; three new Farmgen developments planned in Cumbria, with hundreds of jobs.

This is the sharp reality of green growth. At a time when closures and cuts dominate the news cycle, next-generation industries are providing jobs just as in the recovery after the last deep depression in 1929 to 1931. It is new and innovative industries that grow fastest.

Renewable energy is surging out across the United Kingdom, blazing a trail of start-ups and jobs.

Across the Pennines, in Yorkshire, 2,250 jobs – £130 million in Real Ventures’ biomass plant, employing up to 285 people.

And in the North East, more than 1,400 jobs – TAG Energy Solutions, delivering up to 400 jobs in the Billingham turbine factory.

North of the border, one of the jewels in our renewable energy crown – £160 million of new investment and more than 420 Scottish jobs.

Across the Irish Sea, 450 jobs in Belfast Harbour thanks to DONG Energy’s Duddon Sands offshore wind farm; 1,400 jobs in Wales.

In the heart of England, 100 jobs in the East Midlands – and 50 in the West; 120 in East Anglia.

Two thousand and two hundred jobs in the South East, supported by £172m – from Vestas, the Green Home Company, and more. And at Tilbury, the first UK coal plant to convert completely to biomass, safeguarding livelihoods.

Across Britain, from the industrial heartlands to the northernmost extremities, new energy technologies are delivering jobs and growth just when we need them most.

Capitalising on our geographical, physical and human advantages; Scotland’s research and natural resources. The Solent’s marine expertise. Manufacturing in the North East. Technology development in the M4 corridor.

Renewable energy doesn’t just have the potential to bring Britain’s economy back to life – it has already started.

Our job now is to allow it to really flourish. How? By setting clear and coherent objectives. And using regulation and closely targeted support to hit them.

Targets

By the end of this decade, we must cut our carbon emissions by 34% on 1990 levels. By the end of the next decade, they must be halved.

To hit our EU renewable energy target, we must generate 30% of our electricity from renewables by 2020. That means a fourfold increase in deployment – turning our back on an inheritance that ranked us as the dunce in class, 25th out of 27 EU countries for renewables.

Growth on that kind of scale will not be easy. It will require tough decisions, clear thinking, and tightly focused support.

And everyone has a part to play.

Industry must carry on making the case for renewables. Engaging with communities – and answering its critics by delivering renewable schemes that save money and save carbon.

Government must break through the barriers that are stopping new schemes being built, overcoming the financial, planning and delivery hurdles that can hold up progress on renewables.

And together we must do a better job of communicating. That means engaging with the communities who stand to benefit, and the investors who don’t yet see the promise that renewable energy holds.

We must ensure the silent majority aren’t drowned out by the vocal minority – those opposed to renewable energy in all its forms.

That means making sure communities that host renewables benefit more directly. That’s what our proposals on business rate retention are for. And that’s why we were pleased to endorse Renewable UK’s Protocol on Community Benefits.

My challenge to you today is this: keep it up. Continue to develop and publicise new ways of rewarding those communities most affected by development.

Opportunities

Because, as the report you are publishing today shows, the opportunities are simply too great to ignore.

Globally, around half a trillion dollars has been earmarked for green stimulus spending. We will need to spend a hundred times that by 2050 to hit our climate targets.

We must be realistic. The pressure on the public finances means we cannot support everything at the level we otherwise would.

So we must ensure we send clear market signals: deploying public finance intelligently, and breaking through barriers to growth.

Our starting point is simple. We have a responsibility to the taxpayer to get the most carbon and cost-effective electricity generation online…

In total, our low-carbon and energy-saving policies will reduce household enegy bills compared with a ‘do nothing policy’.

Markets

Our approach to renewable energy must encourage investment and deliver value for money for consumers.

We are doing three things to help.

First, we are using policy to create new markets that will stimulate new investment – like the Green Deal, our unprecedented energy efficiency programme. It will bring jobs, growth and opportunities right across the country.

Or the world’s first Renewable Heat Incentive. It will create a whole new market in renewable heat. Not just big industrial and commercial installations, but also homes and businesses, too.

We expect green capital investment in heat to rise by £7.5 billion by 2020, supporting 150,000 manufacturing, supply chain and installer jobs.

So the first thing we’re doing is to create new markets; the second is to make existing markets work better.

This is why we published in the summer our plans for the reform of the electricity market, which will deliver secure, low-carbon and affordable electricity.

We’ve listened to the renewables industry in drawing up the reforms. That’s why we support a contract for difference model tailored to renewables and not auctioning in the near future…

By offering certainty and clarity, we can secure the scale of investment we need. And by attracting in new investors, we will also increase competition in the UK energy market.

Benefits

Our third priority is to capture the benefits of the low-carbon revolution. That means ensuring more clean technologies are designed and manufactured here.

We have a blossoming low-carbon goods and services sector, which seems to be thriving even in tough times.

But China leads the world in solar photovoltaic panel production; Germany on energy efficient housing design.

We’re missing a trick unless we start supporting low-carbon manufacturing here in Britain – and grow the green supply chain: locking in profits and expertise, and creating the exports that will keep Britain competitive.

Yes, climate change is a manmade disaster. Yes, the UK is only 2% of global carbon emissions. But if we grasp the opportunity now our businesses and economy can be much more than 2% of the solution.

We are not going to save our economy by turning our back on renewable energy.

This has been at the heart of Liberal Democrat policy for decades and it is something the Deputy Prime Minister, the Business Secretary, and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury instinctively understand.

But this goes beyond any one party. I know the Prime Minister agrees, which is why he is putting so much effort in to securing offshore wind manufacturing in the UK. And it is something I know my predecessor Ed Miliband understands.

It is this three-party consensus that makes the UK such a good place to invest.

It wasn’t always like that. It is nothing short of a national disgrace that in the 1980s the UK lost our leading wind research position to Denmark, because government refused to support the industry.

It is a mistake I am determined that this Coalition Government will not make again.

So I can today assure you that this Government has resolved that we will be the largest market in Europe for offshore wind.

We already have more installed offshore wind than anywhere else in the world and we are determined to remain at the forefront.

That’s why we set aside £200 million for the development of low-carbon technologies, including £60m for supporting major new manufacturing projects on the English coast.

We will be the best place to invest in marine power, and we will be the fastest growing country in the EU when it comes to renewable deployment.

That’s why the Green Investment Bank has been capitalised with three billion pounds, to help unlock private sector investment at scale. For the first time ever, Britain will join every other leading developed economy in having a public development bank focused on key economic goals…

Non-financial

So from the structure of the electricity market to research funding, we’re breaking through the economic barriers. But we’re also focusing on non-financial obstacles.

We’re reforming the planning system, to ensure it’s no longer a brake on sustainable development.

The energy National Policy Statements set out the national need for new renewable energy infrastructure. We have introduced a fast-track process for consents. And we will close the Infrastructure Planning Commission and return decisions on major energy infrastructure to democratically elected ministers.

Over 1,000 pages of local planning policy for England are being replaced by clearer and more streamlined National Planning Policy Framework. And the Government will consult on measures for a ‘planning guarantee’.

We’re also working to improve grid connections. The connect and manage regime is now up and running. Network companies are now looking much further ahead in their planning and engaging more effectively with stakeholders. Together, this will help the network acts as a facilitator rather than an obstacle to renewable generation.

And a few months ago, we published the Renewables Roadmap – setting out for the first time how we will overcome barriers to deployment.

It’s a comprehensive action plan to accelerate the UK’s deployment and use of renewable energy.

Conclusion

In many ways, Britain can lay claim to be the home of renewable energy.

It is thought that the oldest tidal mill in the world once stood across the river Fleet, in London. The white cliffs of Dover looked over a tide mill that was recorded in the Domesday Book.

And 130 years ago, we connected the world’s first public electricity supply, in Godalming, Surrey.

It did not burn coal, or gas.

No, the power plant in question was a Siemens generator driven by 100% clean, renewable power: a watermill on the River Wey.

When Britain began its journey towards electrification, renewable energy was the future.

But we ended up choosing another path. This time, things will be different.

We will not heed the naysayers or the green economy deniers.

With over £200 billion worth of energy infrastructure needed by the end of the decade, this is our golden chance to deliver a greener future.”

Scottish Government Announces New Agri-Renewables Strategy

Scottish Government Announces New Agri-Renewables Strategy

As we have covered previously on this blog there has been a growing demand for Scotland’s planning process for onshore renewable energy developments to be overhauled and simplified. A few weeks ago the National Farmers Union of Scotland wrote to the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney calling for an independent group of experts  be established to deliver a ‘clear, concise and deliverable renewables strategy’. Shortly after this the agri-business magnate Maitland Mackie distributed a document entitled ‘The Real Rationale for Renewable Energy‘ to councillors, MSPs and planning officers across the country. This campaign bore fruit yesterday as the Scottish Government announced the launch of a new strategy for Agri-Renewables.

It was at the annual Black Island Show that the Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead decided to make the much welcome announcement which he stated would “ensure that land managers can benefit from the renewables revolution and unlock the green energy potential of their land”. The strategy is intended to address the four issues that have been identified as key challenges for the sector. These are:

  • The Understanding of the Planning System
  • Access to Independent Advice
  • Pre-Construction Costs
  • Connection to the National Grid

The Secretary’s speech was as follows:

“Scotland is currently experiencing a renewables revolution and I want to see farmers, crofters and land managers working with local communities to ensure they grasp the benefits for their business and the nation

“Farmers and land managers have access to our nation’s abundance of natural resources, so it is no wonder they are already queuing up to grasp the opportunities presented by renewables.

“The renewables revolution offers our farmers and land-based industries the opportunity to cut energy costs, generate new income and contribute to our low carbon future. The list of benefits is endless.

“However, we are all on a steep learning curve, and need to quickly learn to take advantage of the industry’s increasing enthusiasm. We need to get our heads around the various challenges as well as the opportunities. Issues such as funding, planning, accessing grid connections, choosing the best technology, and so on, are all topics that farmers and others wish to see addressed in a well thought out strategy. I agree that this is the way forward, and that’s why we made a manifesto commitment to make it happen.

“Working with the industry, the Scottish Government is keen to deliver a strategy that ensures our renewable potential, boosts rural development, and a more profitable agricultural sector.

“The Agri-Renewables Strategy will be developed in co-operation with industry representatives and will build on the Scottish Government’s existing renewables activity in the agricultural sector.

“Scotland has some of the most ambitious climate change legislation in the world and there has already been a great deal of innovation within the farming sector.

“In a few years’ time I hope every farm in Scotland is benefiting from renewable energy in some shape or form. If we can make that vision reality, then that will be truly transformational.

“I look forward to having the new strategy in place by summer next year at the latest.”

The announcement has been welcomed by the NFU Scotland, who in a statement on their website remarked that they were “prepared to help wherever necessary in providing information and support all those involved in drafting the Agri-Renewables Strategy”. They also emphasised that they felt that the agricultural sector would be crucial if the Scottish Government was to achieve the “very ambitious” targets they had set for renewable energy generation. The NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller released the following statement in response to the Government announcement:

“The Scottish Government’s announcement that it will draw up an Agri-Renewables Strategy, with the assistance of industry representatives, is welcome and could be valuable for all farmers wanting to make the most of the opportunities for producing green energy on their land.

“The Scottish Government’s manifesto commitment to develop this strategy and, in particular, to simplify the planning process, were spot on. Scottish farmers and crofters have already contributed a great deal in terms of cutting carbon emissions and installing the means of producing renewable energy on their land, however, inconsistencies and constraints in the planning system mean that many farmers are struggling to get energy projects off the ground.

“The ambitious target to be able to produce 100% of our electricity demand equivalent from renewable sources by 2020 could be attainable, but we need a clear steer from the Scottish Government insetting out nationwide planning guidance and priorities for those applying for and approving renewable projects.

“NFU Scotland has built up a long list of examples from among its membership of where the system is and is not working and will offer to work closely with the Scottish Government and other industry representatives in order to help our farmers and crofters contribute to Scotland’s renewable energy aims.

“We have already got the ball rolling in tackling the planning issue and, in addition to our contact with the Scottish Government, we are meeting Scotland’s chief planner next week with a view to addressing the obstacles and anomalies that exist within the planning system and between Scotland’s local authorities.”

The Agri-Renewables Strategy could be absolutely crucial to achieving the aim of 100% renewable energy generation by 2020 as well as providing a much needed boost to agriculture and fragile local economies up and down the country. The only issue one could have on the subject is that it has not come quite soon enough.

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