Government must energise renewables, says Miller

The National Farmers Union of Scotland yesterday challenged the Scottish Government to remove some of the current barriers preventing a fuller uptake of renewable energy projects.

Speaking at a major renewable conference in Edinburgh, union boss Nigel Miller said there was a real buzz amongst farmers and landowners about renewable energy and he claimed that rural community would have a huge part to play in Scotland hitting target its renewable energy target in 2020.

But the drive for more energy from these projects was being hampered with problems surrounding planning controls, grid connections and grid capacity, which Miller said were now the real limiting factors to progress.

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Referring to the Scottish Government’s targets for renewable energy, he said: “It is a big ask for Scotland to generate 100 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources in the future, but the reality is that we are making huge progress and a lot of people in the rural community are driving and investing in this vision.

“But progress appears to be bringing more hurdles. Renew-ables do have an impact on the environment and can bring rigid controls. Like farming, renewable developments are in the public eye. It is also right at the middle of politics – both local and national – because this is about driving ambitious targets at time when there is not a lot of money about.

“The vision, innovation, investment and enthusiasm around renewables have already gone way beyond the basic implementation strategy that we require to make them work.“

Miller said the Scottish Government’s agri-renewables strategy presented a fantastic vision that land managers and owners and rural business had bought into. “They realise the potential of energy generation from their land and resources, but Scottish Government now needs to go further than vision,” he said.

He called for more intervention by government to help reduce the hurdles and added there was a need to be proactive. That meant sitting down with local authorities and coming up with a strategy that worked.

“Sorting this out quickly is key to continuing our impressive track record in energy generation and the role of the farming industry in that,” he said.

“Offshore generation presents huge potential, but the reality is that targets are more likely to be realised on land. Farm businesses, estates and crofters can provide the platform for consistent supply, whether that be generated by wind, hydro or anaerobic digestion.”

Miller’s remarks came on the back of figures that 2012 was on track to be best renewables year yet. Renewable electricity generation in the first half of 2012 was 13 per cent higher than the same period last year, and around 35 per cent of Scottish electricity demand in 2011 was met from renewables, exceeding the target of 31 per cent.

Highlighting the growth in the sector, installed renewable capacity at the end of the second quarter of 2012 was also up by 18.6 per cent.