Setbacks for Scottish renewables

The latest electricity generation statistics show that two fifths of electricity used in Scotland came from renewables last year. 40.3% of energy consumption in 2012 was met by the sector – up from 36.3% the previous year and 24.1% in 2010.

Energy minister Fergus Ewing said the figures showed renewables were “going from strength to strength”, although environmental campaigners said more needed to be done to meet targets.

Scotland exported more than 26% of electricity generated last year and that explains a somewhat different picture when we look at power generated here. Nuclear power provided 34.4% of electricity generated in Scotland in 2012, while 29.8% came from renewables, 24.9% came from coal, 8% from gas and 2.8% from oil and other sources.

While renewables are growing, there are signs that the next big shift to meet the Scottish Government’s ambitious targets may be more difficult.

OFGEM have just announced that their decision about Project TransmIT has been delayed until March next year. This is important in reducing the transmission costs of renewables. The Western Isles subsea cable has also been delayed again, with SSE citing lack of commitment by developers, who themselves need the cable and the transmission issue to be resolved. A classic chicken and egg situation.

Then we have the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) announcement of additional support for Scottish island wind – £115/MWh, compared to £90/MWh on the mainland. This price may not work for the developers and the Scottish Government has convened a summit with the island authorities to discuss the position.

Offshore wind has also had a setback when Scottish Power Renewables (SPR) announced it would not proceed with the Argyll Array scheme following technical and environmental site studies. It would have had up to 300 turbines and a capacity of up to 1800MW, enough to power one million homes. SPR’s owner Iberdrola has also been hit by a Spanish government decision to abandon plans to bail out the country’s electricity sector from a €3.6 billion deficit. This has resulted in a diminished credit rating by investor service agency, Moody’s.

The TUC believes that current UK government policy is making the realisation of energy policy ambitions for renewables increasingly unlikely and has highlighted a number of urgent policy actions.

Overall, there is a long way to go to achieve emission targets in Scotland and the UK and the developments above are not encouraging.

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