With Scotland’s big decision coming to its conclusion and thousands marching the streets last weekend in support of action for global Climate Change, this seems an opportune moment to gather thoughts on Clean Energy in Scotland and the rest of the UK.
With the ‘No’ Vote last week, lobby group Scottish Renewables have released a paper setting out their suggestions and expectations for a post-referendum UK energy sector in a paper titled ‘Harnessing Scotland’s Energy’. The paper highlights the proposal of further devolution in the energy sector through a new joint Scottish and UK Government energy policy and opens up a wider question of, what next for Scottish Renewable Energy?
Generally speaking, the Renewable Energy sector across Scotland, the UK and Europe, breathed a sigh of relief following the conclusion of the referendum last Thursday. Investment into Scottish energy can chug back into life and can continue on it’s encouraging trajectory. Bloomberg quotes that Scotland currently accounts for 43% of the UK’s wind power capacity with that figure only looking likely to rise. Shares in Scottish-based power firms such as SSE were given a welcome lift and many renewable projects across the country which were taken off the boil pending a result will now be nursed back to their former health.
As a direct result of the vote and promises made by Westminster in its wake, there are calls for Holyrood to have a greater say in determining Scotland’s energy policy. Critics of the UK’s wider renewable energy structure argue that Scotland should be forced to shoulder a greater portion of the cost of driving wind farms. This is understandable given that all UK energy consumers currently share the burden of subsidising wind farms despite a disproportionate share of them being built in Scotland. With devolution proposals remaining unclear, it certainly seems politically unlikely that Scotland will be allocated full control over what is a very powerful and promising future industry for the UK as a whole.
Regardless of the result of any future ‘devo-max’ proposals, renewable energy in Scotland is performing remarkably well and there is no indication that this will not continue. Official figures released this week by the Department of Energy and Climate Change show that Scotland’s renewable electricity generation in the first half of this year was 30% higher compared to the same period in 2013 and is very much on target for half way proposals in 2015. However, there is still a woeful lack of grid connections to the Northern and Western Isles – home to the country’s most consistent wind resources, and key to the development of wave and tidal power. Indeed, many projects in these regions are being sidelined on the basis that there is simply not enough cable to transport the electricity generated! The country is also glaringly behind target on Renewable Heat and Biomass with only a tiny percentage of renewable energy production attributed to it.
Despite these setbacks, Scotland still continues to stride forward in the area of wave and tidal energy, fast becoming a world leader with more than £217m invested in it, and with over £30m spent in the last 12 months alone (according to Scottish Renewables). As well as this financial investment, recent studies have also placed around two-thirds of the growing industry’s supply chain in Scotland, boosting jobs and furthering pioneering expertise in an area forecast to be worth £50 billion by 2050.
In answering the question of what the future holds for Scotland’s Renewables, Energy Minister Fergus Ewing stated that Holyrood is “committed to making Scotland a leading low carbon investment destination, delivering growth from the growing low carbon sector and ensuring communities across Scotland can benefit from the opportunities that the transition to a low carbon economy brings”. With protesters marching on Climate Change, Leonardo Di Caprio sticking his oar in at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York, and major oil fundsperforming a clean energy u-turn in the past few days – the global momentum seems to be very much heading in one direction and this can only be a good thing for the Renewables industry in Scotland and the UK.