Scotland’s bid to lead a “renewable energy revolution” took a further leap forward yesterday with the Scottish government’s adoption of ambitious targets to meet 80 per cent of electricity demand with renewable sources by 2020.
The country’s budding renewable energy sector already has more than 7GW of renewable capacity installed, in construction or consented, prompting the government to increase its previous target for 2020 from 50 per cent in an attempt to further accelerate investment.
The original target was set in 2007, but an expansion in wind power since then, including the 180MW Robin Rigg offshore wind farm and Europe’s largest onshore wind farm at Whitelee in East Renfrewshire, has meant Scotland is on course to comfortably exceed its 2011 target of 31 per cent.
Less advanced is Scotland’s vast marine energy resource, although the awarding of 10 leases for testing projects in the Pentland Firth earlier this year should ensure commercially viable devices are pumping electricity into the grid by the end of the decade.
With an estimated 25 per cent of Europe’s potential wind and tidal energy capacity and a tenth of its wave resource located in Scotland, the Scottish government is confident that attaining a significantly higher quantity of electricity from renewables is well within the country’s reach without major policy changes – a conclusion backed by a separate study from industry body Scottish Renewables, published yesterday.
The report predicted huge potential for employment in the renewable industry, with up to 28,000 direct jobs being created to service the Scottish, UK and worldwide markets for offshore wind turbines. Another 60,000 new green jobs could be created by 2020 in other low-carbon industries, it claimed.
First minister Alex Salmond said that only by setting itself such ambitious targets and attracting the necessary investment could Scotland capitalise on its natural advantages.
“Scotland is ideally placed to help lead the renewables revolution and taking account of the levels of planned investment over the next decade. I believe it is now time to aim higher and to go further,” he said. “Strong leadership is needed across government and industry to attract the investment to deliver these jobs, so the Scottish government is today raising the renewable generation target for 2020 to 80 per cent. It is vital that all of us work with ambition and vision to seize the moment and secure a sustainable future for the next generation.”
In related news, UK renewable energy group Renewable Energy Generation Limited (REG) confirmed that construction of a five-turbine, 10MW wind farm at Sancton Hill should commence next year after East Riding council’s planning committee voted to support the construction.
Following the vote of 12 votes to one in favour of the scheme, Andrew Whalley, chief executive officer of REG, said that he expected full planning permission to be granted later this year.
“The strong support of the planning committee to grant permission for the 10MW Sancton Hill is welcome news,” he said. “We will be moving forward our discussions with the council to complete the Section 106 agreement as speedily as possible in order to allow construction in REG’s next financial year.”