DEVOLUTION has played a major role in the expansion of renewable energy in the UK, with Scotland leading the way ahead of Wales and Northern Ireland, a new report has claimed.
Scotland could be considered a leader in renewable energy within the UK due to the expansion of wind power between 2003 and 2011 – when onshore wind “grew tenfold” from 308MW to 3,016MW.
The authors of the report, from a group of leading UK universities, said that Scottish ministers have “full control over major energy consents and planning”, ensuring the expansion of the SNP’s flagship policy to heavily promote renewable energy through wind farms.
Scotland has over 70 operational wind farms. Nearly 200 more are either under construction, have been given permission to be built or are in the planning stages, according to figures published on the ScottishPower renewables website.
The “centrality of energy issues” to the SNP and its “independence agenda” also helped to explain the high number of wind farms in Scotland, the report said.
SNP energy minister Fergus Ewing said the report showed “Scotland has hit the natural lottery” with green energy resources.
However, Tory MSP Murdo Fraser, the head of Holyrood’s energy committee claimed the report showed the SNP had been using its “overbearing” planning powers to override local objections to controversial wind farms.
He said: “What the report confirms is that SNP ministers are so fixated with the development of onshore wind that they are prepared to use planning powers to push through developments in the face of local opposition.”
The report was based on research from the University of Aberdeen, Robert Gordon University, Cardiff University, Queen’s University Belfast and Birmingham University. The authors said that in Scotland “energy policy is executively devolved” meaning that the bulk of the powers over whether to approve wind farms are held by Holyrood ministers.
Ministers for the Wales and Northern Ireland administrations hold less power to intervene over the approval of local applications for wind farms.
Mr Ewing welcomed the report and said: “This report underlines the importance of the flexibility which Scotland has over energy policy, and the effective use to which that flexibility has been put since devolution.
“Successive Scottish Governments have taken distinct approaches where necessary – these have built upon the advantages presented by our huge renewable resource, and helped Scotland establish itself as a hub for investment and a byword for emerging renewable technologies.”