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Scotland takes the green road

The devolved Scottish government has produced a 2020 Routemap outlining its new targets for meeting 100% of Scotland’s electricity needs and 30% of its overall energy needs from renewables by 2020. Scotland already meets over 27% of electricity demand from renewables and the government said that it is on target to reach its existing target of 11% of heat from renewables by 2020 So it thought that, with the ambitious electricity target, it can expand its total energy target to 30%. [www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2009/07/06095830/2020Routemap
](http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2009/07/06095830/2020Routemap)

However, its plans have been called unrealistic, unachievable and not in the best interests of energy consumers, in a report from Inverness-based Mackay Consultants. Tony Mackay, lead author of the ‘Prospects for Scotland’s Energy Industries 2011-20’ report, told the Scottish Herald the general standard of the reports used to back the plans ‘has been very poor and in many cases very biased,’ and argued that the electricity industry accounted for only 18% of final energy consumption in 2010, much lower than the 42% share for petroleum products- mainly petrol and diesel for transport- and the 37% for natural gas- mainly for heating. So he said ‘it is difficult to understand why electricity generation is such a high priority’. Presumably the answer is that, as in the UK, some electricity will be used for heating and for transport, and there should be a lot of it available.

Certainly, in response to Mackay’s comments, the Scottish Government stressed that the target is for Scotland to generate twice what is needed to meet all its electricity demands, with 100% of electricity from renewables and the same again from other sources: ‘This analysis is wrong. Scotland already produces more than one-quarter of electricity from renewables and we have enough renewables capacity installed, under construction or consented to provide almost 60% of our electricity needs. By 2020, Scotland will be generating double the amount of electricity we need, with additional electricity generation met by clean energy plants progressively fitted with carbon capture and storage technology.’

And Niall Stewart, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, told the Herald ‘we stand by all our research. The industry is very confident these targets are achievable and indeed there is already more than enough in the pipeline.’

Writing in International Sustainable Energy Review he explained ‘essentially, Scotland will export a percentage of its total electricity generated across the UK and further afield to Europe when output from renewables is high, and will depend on electricity from nuclear and fossil-fuelled generation and imports when output is low’.

Put that way, it doesn’t sound quite so radical or daunting. In particular, note that, although no new plants are envisaged, the plan still relies on Scotlands two existing nuclear plants- and their operational life may be extended. Scottish National Party energy minister, Fergus Ewing, speaking in a Holyrood debate on the 100% renewable routemap, said: ‘We are perfectly open to an extension of the life of the existing nuclear power stations provided that case is justified on economic and environmental grounds and therefore we recognise that that case exists and it exists because of the need to secure security of supply. That is something that we have always recognised whilst we are opposed clearly to building new nuclear power stations.’

A SNP government spokesman denied there had been a change in policy- they had always accepted that the life of Hunterston and Torness could be extended, and anyway they had no powers to prevent this. But they could block new nuclear plants through the planning process.

Friends of the Earth Scotland saw it as ‘deeply disturbing and utterly disappointing. The SNP has always been viewed as anti-nuclear and I’m sure many SNP voters will feel quite misled when they learn that this is not the case anymore.’ That is perhaps overstating it- the SNP has made clear it is still against any new plants. But there are worries about life extensions. Hunterston B, which will be 40 years old when its current license runs out in 2016, was already the focus of safety concerns, and FoE had already urged Ewing to commission an independent review of the risks of continuing to run reactors. Torness, near Edinburgh, which is due to run until 2023, had to be shut down recently because of sudden influx of jellyfish around its water intake pipe!

Meanwhile Scotland’s renewables expansion programme has not always been going exactly to plan. Although its mainstay, wind power, is doing well, with 3.4GW in place and around 20GW seen as possible, including about 10GW offshore, wave energy has had some problems. Pelamis Wave Power, the Scottish firm championed by SNP leader Alex Salmond as an example of Scotlands emerging marine economy, is to lay off nearly a third of its employees. The Edinburgh-based wave power developer has announced a major restructuring which will cut at least 20 of its 70 highly skilled posts. Pelamis is moving to a new phase of the development of its Pelamis P2 articulated ‘wave snake’ device, built for Eon and Scottish Power Renewables, and said the job losses were a result of a shift from a ‘manufacturing focus to an operational phase’. With more projects likely expected, this may be just a temporary blip, but perhaps more seriously, RWE npower renewables has pulled out of the 4MW Siadar Oscillating Water Column wave project on the Scottish island of Lewis., leaving the main developer, UK wave pioneer Wavegen, now owned by Voith Hyro, in an uncertain position.

However it is not all bad news. Pentland Orkney Wave Energy Resource (POWER) Ltd’s 28 MW project has been selected by DECC to be put forward to the European Investment Bank for consideration for funding under the EU’s New Entrant Reserve scheme. It would have 10 Aquamarine near-shore Oyster hinged-flap wave devices and 24 offshore Pelamis machines, with a single point of connection to the grid. In parallel, progress is being made on the various tidal stream projects. Indeed RWE said that “Tidal seems simpler to develop and it’s going to be easier and quicker to develop than the Siadar [wave] technology.”

Overall, the SNP plan says it should be possible to have over 5GW of wave and tidal capacity installed off the Scottish coast, with the 1.6GW programme for the Pentland Firth area seen as just the start. Projects within that have completion dates in and around 2020, with tidal stream projects dominating.

There is currently about 7 GW of renewables capacity installed, under construction or consented around Scotland, and this should enable it to exceed its interim target of 31% of its electricity demand from renewables in 2011. That’s well ahead of the UK as a whole. According to DECCs latest statistics, by the end of 2010 the UK had reached 6.8% of UK electricity and 3.3% of total energy. The UK target is 15% of total energy from renewables by 2020. Cleary the Scottish contribution would help – if it can be achieved. But 100% of electricity by 2020- contributing to 30% of total energy? That’s really pushing it.

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