The expansion of green power is essential for Scotland’s energy security, economic prosperity, and environmental sustainability, First Minister Alex Salmond said as he unveiled a new target to keep the country at the forefront of the sector.
The First Minister told the RenewableUK conference in Glasgow that a refreshed Renewables Routemap aims to see 50 per cent of Scotland’s electricity demand met from green power by 2015 – a new, achievable target based on the sector’s rapid progress.
The new target comes after DECC statistics showed that Scotland met 35 per cent of its electricity demand from renewables in 2011 – beating the previous interim target of 31 per cent by the end of 2011.
Mr Salmond outlined the benefits this new target would bring to Scotland as part of the broader energy mix, with the country’s electricity generation capacity now expected to exceed demand by around 35 per cent in 2015, allowing Scotland to meet its own power needs while producing a surplus that will be vital for supply across the United Kingdom.
The First Minister also told delegates that Scotland’s renewables success story presented the country with a “massive economic opportunity” and that the new target would help build on the current 11,000 jobs in green energy following a bumper year for investment that has seen projects totalling £2.3bn committed to Scotland – more than any other part of the UK.
And Mr Salmond said the new target would improve Scotland’s transformation to a low carbon economy, reinforcing the strong domestic leadership that will see the country’s greenhouse gas emissions reduced by 42 per cent by 2020 and continuing the global leadership that has seen Scotland at the forefront of the fight for climate justice.
The First Minister told the conference:
“When I became First Minister in 2007, I inherited a target for 50 per cent of Scotland’s electricity to be produced by renewable sources by 2020. We now know that we can achieve much more than that, more quickly – having already exceeded our 2011 target.
“Last year, we published a Routemap for Renewable Energy for Scotland, outlining how we would meet the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020. Today, we are publishing an update to that Routemap. It shows clearly the progress that has been made in the last year.
“In the light of that progress, I can announce that we have set a new interim target – by 2015, the equivalent of 50 per cent of Scotland’s electricity demand will be met by renewable sources. This target is ambitious, but also achievable. It is based on current data about capacity which is operational, under construction, or has been consented.
“I believe creating more clean energy is essential for Scotland and this target provides three benefits in particular – energy security; environmental sustainability; and employment opportunities.
The First Minister continued:
“Expanding our renewable electricity capacity in Scotland will help deliver security of supply, not just in Scotland but at UK level. Ofgem predicted earlier this month that by 2015 the UK’s electricity generation might exceed peak demand by only 4 per cent. That’s a steep decline from today’s 14 per cent, and even that 4 per cent margin is only achieved by ending electricity exports to Ireland.
“The position for Scotland is very different. By 2015 our generation capacity could exceed peak demand by approximately 35 per cent. This underlines that renewables, alongside our other generation sources, is crucial to energy security in Scotland. It’s also crucial to the UK.”
Mr Salmond described the development of renewable energy as “a massive economic opportunity” for Scotland, which he said was in a to develop offshore wind, wave and tidal power.
He continued: “We have immense natural resources, a world-class research base and generations of engineering expertise, particularly offshore.
“Everything that the Scottish Government does – our long-term targets and our significant financial support for developing renewables – is designed to maximise those advantages, and to encourage jobs and investment. We have listened to the renewables industry, and we have worked to make Scotland one of the best places in the world to invest.
“In total, 11,000 people are now employed in the renewable energy sector. That number will grow still further – indeed, we have estimated that offshore wind alone could support up to 28,000 direct jobs by 2020.”
The announcement of more ambitious renewable targets came on the same day that Highland Council gave the go ahead for an £800 million Hydron Electric project at Coire Glas, near Spean Bridge, in Lochaber.
The project will see the creation of 150 jobs over six years and when complete will lead to the generation of 600MW of clean, renewable electricity.