Scotland top for green energy investment

Scotland is dominating growth in the independent renewables sector as investment last year topped £116 million, new research indicates.

Solar power continues to be the dominant UK technology by capacity, but five major wind farms have helped Scotland lead the way in renewables generation. Picture: Contributed

Green energy supplier SmartestEnergy, which has a base in Glasgow, found that Scotland accounted for almost 85 per cent of new capacity generated from independent, commercial-scale renewables, adding 276 megawatts of the UK’s overall 329MW additional capacity during 2018.

Five major onshore wind farms were connected to the grid in Scotland last year, helping the nation to eclipse the performance of 49MW fresh capacity in England and a further 4MW in Wales.

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The Energy Entrepreneurs Report showed a total of £158m was invested in the sector last year by developers, farmers, landowners and communities across the UK, with £116m of this taking place in Scotland.

This represents a 5.3 per cent year-on-year growth in investment – the slowest rate since the inception of the annual report in 2012 – as the impact of cuts to subsidies continued to be felt. Recent changes have included the removal of subsidies from the Renewables Obligation scheme and cuts to feed-in tariffs.

For the purposes of the report, commercial-scale schemes are classed as those with a capacity of 50 kilowatts or more, while independent projects are defined as those not owned by an electricity supply company.

The study suggested that developers north of the Border are seeking to maximise revenues by actively exploring the energy storage market, accounting for more than a third of the UK projects in the pipeline.

It also revealed particular growth in gas-peaking plants, flexible generation assets which can be quickly switched on and off according to demand, with more than £36m invested across the UK.

The volume of power generated from independent renewable projects in the UK has increased by 199 per cent since 2012.

Capacity currently stands at 14.1 gigawatts and can power 8.3 million households.

Solar power continues to be the dominant UK technology by capacity, accounting for 6GW of the national total, followed by onshore wind, anaerobic digestion and hydro power.

Dave Cockshott, chief commercial officer for SmartestEnergy, said the report highlights how independent energy investors are now adjusting to changes in the funding landscape.

He said: “The latest figures underline the huge contribution the independent generation sector is making to help meet the UK’s ambitions to reduce emissions and ensure security of supply.

“The end of subsidies has inevitably seen investment in new generation projects plateau, but the focus is now shifting to new ways for energy entrepreneurs to profit from taking part in the transition to a smarter, lower carbon energy system.”