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Don’t rush to judgment over renewables

The wind farm would have had 34 turbines - enough to power 61,000 homes. File picture: Ian Rutherford

The wind farm would have had 34 turbines - enough to power 61,000 homes. File picture: Ian Rutherford

  • by NIALL STUART
 

New film summarises ecological issues, says Niall Stuart

Renewables is the new kid on the block in the UK’s energy mix, meaning every penny invested in green energy is scrutinised in minute detail.

Sometimes, that means we can lose sight of the ultimate objective of renewables – reducing carbon emissions and tackling climate change – and the positive impact technologies like wind power, hydro and solar are having in Scotland today.

Today, Scottish Renewables launches Renewables in Scotland: Adding Up to a Brighter Future – an animated short film to educate, inform and empower those with an interest in green energy with the facts around its contribution to our society.

Research shows that the vast majority of Scots, as well as the rest of the population across the UK, are firmly behind action to tackle the moral, social, economic and environmental imperative of climate change, and behind efforts to grow the output of renewables.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change’s Public Attitudes Tracking Survey shows 80 per cent of the UK public back “the use of renewable energy for providing our electricity, fuel and heat”, while just one in 20 opposes the idea.

In summer 2012, 55 per cent of those surveyed by DECC said they would be happy to have a large-scale renewable energy development in their area. In the latest survey, held in April 2014, that number had risen to 59 per cent, while the number who would oppose a large-scale renewable energy development fell from 19 per cent to 17 per cent.

Political attacks on the industry are damaging, but not only to investment in the sector. A survey in May (2014) found more than one in three English voters would be more likely to support local council candidates who are in favour of building wind farms, while almost seven in ten were unaffected by or positive of candidates who support local wind farm developments.

The figures are clear: the public are actually increasing their support of green energy.

Indeed, from the highest levels of the United Nations to towns and villages across Scotland, people understand that we have to make a fundamental shift in the way we power our businesses, in the way we heat our homes, and in how we fuel our journeys by plane, train or automobile.

There is a long way to go, and many tough questions to be answered about the future of every part of our sector, but Scotland has delivered a significant shift in the right direction already.

Scottish Renewables’ new animation sets out some key facts for the industry, including how Scotland has doubled its renewable electricity output since 2007 and now generates the equivalent of around half of the electricity consumed here every year from wind, hydro and other renewables.

Though many of the old, coal power stations have gone, we’re still producing as much electricity as ever – and selling 25 per cent of it to our neighbours.

In 2012, ten million tonnes of carbon emissions were displaced by renewable electricity in Scotland – that’s the equivalent of 99 per cent of the CO² from every car, lorry and bus journey in the nation over a whole year.

Renewable energy isn’t just good for the planet. It’s good for our economy, with more than £1 billion invested in Scotland in 2013 alone. It’s good for employment, with almost 12,000 full-time roles across the country. And it’s good for our communities, with more than £6 million of community benefit payments made every year.

Yes, there is a debate about cost. But as we set out in our two-and-a half minute video, the Renewables Obligation and the Feed in Tariff – the mechanisms by which the decarbonisation of our energy supply is largely funded – cost the average household just 71p a week. That’s significantly less than nuclear decommissioning costs us all, and a fraction of the subsidies given to support investment in coal, oil and gas.

There is a long way to go to our absolute target, and progress on renewing the heat sector – responsible for around half of Scotland’s carbon emissions – has been painfully slow, but the growth of renewable energy is delivering a cleaner, greener, more prosperous and secure future for Scotland’s economy, people and environment, exactly as it is intended to do. So as we prepare to gear up to tackle the numerous threats to the continuing growth of our sector, let’s take some time out to reflect on where we are today, and how far we have come, and how renewables is adding up to a brighter future.

• Niall Stuart is chief executive of Scottish Renewables. Watch the video from 7am today at www.scottishrenewables.com/renewablesinscotland

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