Scotland surpasses green energy targets as UK nuclear programme stalls

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By a Newsnet reporter

The Scottish Government has announced that the country now generates over one third of all its electricity from renewable sources.  Statistics published on Thursday show that the amount of renewable electricity generated in 2011 rose almost 45% on 2010 to 13,750 Gigawatt hours (GWh).

The figures mean that around 35% of Scotland’s electricity needs were provided by renewables in 2011, easily beating the Scottish Government’s target of 31%.  The country is on course to meet the Scottish Government’s ambitious target of 100% of Scottish domestic energy needs being met from renewable sources by 2020.  

Scottish renewable energy production represents some 40% of the UK total for renewable energy, placing Scotland at the forefront of the sector.  Scotland is now amongst the top countries in Europe in terms of the percentage of energy generated from renewables.  By contrast, the UK as a whole lags amongst the bottom countries.  The UK is only meeting its EU targets for renewable energy thanks to the development of the sector in Scotland.

Renewable electricity generation in Scotland in 2011 reached a record high of 13,750 GWh – representing an increase of 44.5%, and 67.4% on 2007’s figure.  At the end of 2011, there was 4,796 Megawatts (MW) of installed renewables electricity capacity in Scotland, an increase of 9.5 per cent (416 MW) on the end of 2010.

Wind generation in 2011 was at a record high of 7,049 GWh – up 45.0% on 2010 (the previous record year for wind) and has more than doubled since 2007.  

Hydro generation in 2011 was at a record high of 5,310 GWh – up 62.6% on 2010 when output was reduced due to low rainfall, and up 8.9% on 2009, the previous record year for hydro.  

The news of Scotland’s record breaking performance in renewables comes as the UK Government’s energy programme lies “in tatters”, according to the GMB Union which represents many workers in the energy sector.   The German energy giants E.ON and RWE announced on Thursday that they were withdrawing from their previous commitment to construct two new nuclear energy facilities in Angelsey and Gloucester.  The decision casts serious doubt on the ability of the UK Government to guarantee that the lights will remain on in England and Wales in the long term.  

The Scottish Government has ruled out the construction of any nuclear facilities in Scotland.  Today’s figures will provide support to those who argue that Scotland’s commitment to renewable energy is more feasible and realistic than the UK Government’s insistence on nuclear energy as the answer to the UK’s energy shortfall.

Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing welcomed the figures for Scotland’s booming renewable energy sector and said:

“It’s official – 2011 was a record breaker, with enough green electricity being produced in Scotland to comfortably beat our interim target.  And Scotland met almost 40 per cent of the UK’s renewables output in 2011, demonstrating just how much the rest of the UK needs our energy.

“We are seeing great progress towards our goal of generating the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity needs from renewables by 2020.

“Projects representing 750 million pounds of investment were switched on in 2011, with an investment pipeline of 46 billion pounds.  And since the turn of the year, we have seen Gamesa invest in Leith creating around 800 new jobs, the Green Investment Bank being headquartered in Edinburgh and Samsung Heavy Industries announcing it will base its 100 million pounds European offshore wind project in Methil, creating up to 500 jobs.

“Alongside securing those major developments, we have taken real steps to ensure that communities all over Scotland will benefit from the renewable energy generated in their area.

“Scotland is a genuine world leader in green energy and our targets reflect the scale of our natural resources, the strength of our energy capabilities and the value we place on creating new, sustainable industries.”