"That this industry has got this far with electricity with only half-hearted Executive support really is proof that renewables have massive economic potential. Further, it underlines that Scotland does not need new nuclear power stations - it just needs a government willing to pull out all the stops to ensure we generate and use clean, green, affordable energy." - Shiona Baird, energy spokesperson for the greens
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SCOTLAND will meet its renewable energy targets three years earlier than planned as a string of controversial wind farm projects comes on stream, according to a report.
Scottish Renewables, the body that represents the green power sector, said the country was set to meet its 2010 target of generating 18 per cent of electricity from renewables by the end of next year.
And with more ambitious development of tide and wave power schemes, the organisation predicted that more than half of Scotland's electricity needs could be satisfied through sustainable means by 2020 - compared to an Executive target of 40 per cent.
Environmentalists welcomed the study as further evidence Scotland does not need to build more nuclear power stations. Wind farm campaigners, however, said the hundreds of wind turbines being built were damaging the Scottish landscape.
According to the Scottish Renewables figures, Scotland is already generating 16 per cent of electricity from green sources as wind power takes off. By next year, the organisation predicts the 18 per cent target will be met largely by a massive growth in wind farms, which will provide 7.5 per cent of energy. A further 10 per cent will come from hydro-electric schemes and 0.5 per cent from wave and other resources. But to meet the target in 2020, other renewable resources will have to grow.
Maf Smith, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, said Scotland could be the green powerhouse of Europe.
He said: "Few [studies] up until now have come close to projecting what harnessing this resource could do for our country: securing an affordable, clean supply of energy, with home-grown jobs and making a huge impact on climate change," he said.
However, Mr Smith warned that the 2020 target could only be met if the Executive invested in renewable energy technologies and ensured that long-term technologies like tidal and wood burning were being set up for the future.
Mr Smith said a more ambitious target could be met if all these things were done. He added: "If politicians want to send a signal that they support renewables then it would be good to see them embrace that with a good target."
Shiona Baird, energy spokesperson for the greens, also wanted a more ambitious approach. She said:
"That this industry has got this far with electricity with only half-hearted Executive support really is proof that renewables have massive economic potential. Further, it underlines that Scotland does not need new nuclear power stations - it just needs a government willing to pull out all the stops to ensure we generate and use clean, green, affordable energy".
However, Gillian Bishop, of Views of Scotland, a campaign against wind farms , said reliance on wind farms would come at a great price to Scotland.
"There are worries that if all these wind farms are consented and built we are going to have a very flaky electricity supply system."
The Scottish Executive said it was confident it would meet the target and welcomed predictions it would be met early. However, it was reluctant to change the target.