Renewables ‘to provide half of Scotland’s electricity by 2015’
HALF of Scotland’s entire electricity needs must now be generated through green energy by 2015, the First Minister has announced.
The ambitious new target is the latest set by the SNP government in its bid to produce all the nation’s electric power from renewable sources by 2020.
Alex Salmond yesterday also revealed new figures showing Scotland’s electricity generation capacity is expected to exceed demand by about 35 per cent in 2015, allowing the nation to meet its own power needs while producing a “vital surplus” for the rest of the UK.
The announcement at the latest UK renewables industry conference in Glasgow follows growing confidence in the administration after Scotland exceeded its previous interim goal of 31 per cent by 2011, creating 35 per cent instead.
Yesterday also saw the publication of record figures in an annual UK report into renewables which showed that wind – “led by Scotland” – is on track to power one in ten homes by 2015, and to be second only to natural gas as the largest single source of UK electricity by 2020.
Addressing delegates at the RenewableUK 2012 Annual Conference and Exhibition at the SECC in Glasgow, the First Minister described Scotland’s renewables success as a “massive economic opportunity”.
Mr Salmond said the new target would bring thousands more jobs to a sector which already employs 11,000 thanks to £2.3 billion of investment in projects north of the Border.
He said: “Last year, we published a routemap for renewable energy for Scotland, outlining how we would meet the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020. Today, we are publishing an update to that routemap. It shows clearly the progress that has been made in the last year.
“In the light of that progress, I can announce that we have set a new interim target – by 2015, the equivalent of 50 per cent of Scotland’s electricity demand will be met by renewable sources.
“This target is ambitious, but also achievable. It is based on current data about capacity which is operational, under construction, or has been consented.
“I believe creating more clean energy is essential for Scotland and this target provides three benefits in particular – energy security; environmental sustainability; and employment opportunities.”
When the SNP came to power in 2007, it inherited a target of producing 50 per cent of Scotland’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020, five years later than the new target.
Mr Salmond added that the latest target would also improve progress on another SNP goal, that of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 42 per cent by 2020, the first annual deadline of which was missed this year.
Environmentalists in Scotland said that failure showed greater focus on reducing carbon emissions from homes and transport was still needed, although they welcomed the latest drive to improve green energy production.
Dr Dan Barlow, head of policy at WWF Scotland, said: “Scotland is already making good progress in realising our green energy potential and this commitment will help maintain confidence in the sector and support thousands of new jobs.
“It’s vital we build on this progress with similar ambitions aimed at improving energy efficiency in our homes and tackling emissions from transport, in order to deliver a truly low-carbon Scotland.”
Earlier this month, Ofgem warned that overall UK electricity production could exceed peak demand by just 4 per cent in 2015, a sharp decline on the current level of 14 per cent.
However, RenewableUK reported a record year in 2011-12, with wind energy output rising by a quarter, or 1,825MW, last year UK-wide.
For the first time in five years, the UK also saw a rise in the number of onshore windfarm proposals approved by councils, up to a record 1,701MW, compared with 1,142MW last year – a leap of nearly 50 per cent.
RenewableUK chief executive Maria McCaffery said: “We have taken significant strides forward … 2011-12 saw overall capital investment in the offshore wind industry rise by 60 per cent to £1.5bn and a record amount of onshore wind capacity approved, with Scotland leading the way.
“These strong figures underline the importance of a secure trading climate to attract investment, especially in difficult times. Although we still have a long way to go, we are firmly on track and gathering momentum.”
Campaigners in Scotland opposing wind farms, however, maintain that the SNP is obsessed with the “turbinisation” of the country at the expense of the landscape and tourism.
A public inquiry is under way into plans for a wind farm beside the Cairngorm National Park, which opponents say would be like “building a Tesco in the Grand Canyon”.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: South west