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Scotland could generate almost all its electricity with renewables by 2030 - report

16 January 2015

Scotland’s electricity system could be powered almost entirely by renewables by 2030 and without the need for any gas, coal or nuclear power stations in Scotland, according to a new report published in early January by WWF Scotland. The report claimed the renewable option could prove a cheaper and safer option than pursuing fossil fuel-based development.

Stock image
Stock image

Based on independent technical analysis by leading engineering and energy consultancy DNV GL, ‘Pathways to Power: Scotland’s route to clean, renewable, secure electricity by 2030’ tested the Scottish Government’s current policy to decarbonise the country’s electricity generation by 2030.

This is separate from the target to provide 100% of electricity demand from renewables by 2020, which still allows for coal and gas to remain on the grid.

Key findings of the report include:
•  An electricity system based on proven renewables and increased energy efficiency is a credible way of meeting Scotland’s decarbonisation target.
•  With no guarantee that Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) will be commercialised and rolled out in time, Scotland’s climate targets could easily be missed unless a safer pathway is followed.
•  Scotland can maintain and even build on its position as a net power exporter if it makes moderate progress to reduce demand for electricity and increase the roll out of hydro pumped storage.
•  A renewable, efficient and flexible system has many advantages over the current Scottish Government scenarios: it is less dependent on imports from the rest of Great Britain at peak demand, is cheaper, and has lower emissions than the scenarios in the Scottish Government’s Electricity Generation Policy Statement.

WWF Scotland’s Climate and Energy Policy Officer, Gina Hanrahan, said:
“It’s great to see the vision for a secure, renewables-based future for Scotland independently tested and proven. It’s clear that Scotland doesn’t have to generate electricity from coal, gas or nuclear to ensure security of supply.

“We’d still like to see CCS tested at Peterhead, but given how slowly this technology is progressing, it makes sense to explore alternative paths to achieving the Government’s own target. The report shows that not only is a renewable, fossil-fuel free electricity system perfectly feasible in Scotland by 2030, it’s actually the safe bet. Pursuing this pathway would allow Scotland to maintain and build on its position as the UK and Europe’s renewable powerhouse, cut climate emissions and continue to reap the jobs and investment opportunities offered by Scotland’s abundant renewable resources.

“We’ve seen renewables go from strength to strength in recent years. They are now the biggest electricity generator in Scotland, outstripping nuclear, coal and gas. We need to see the phasing out of conventional generation in Scotland, clarity about the future market for renewables across the UK and more emphasis on demand reduction and storage in Scotland so the vision can be achieved.”

Lead author of the report for DNV GL, Paul Gardner, said:
“Our technical analysis shows that a system with an extremely high proportion of renewable electricity generation located in Scotland can be secure and stable. There is no technical reason requiring conventional fossil and nuclear generation in Scotland.

“Scotland has plenty of renewables in the pipeline to cut the carbon from its power supply by 2030, particularly if we see progress on reducing electricity demand. And crucially, Scotland can continue to be an electricity exporting nation.”

The DNV GL report's analysis does not seem that far from reality considering how Scotland’s renewable energy industry performed over the last few months of 2014.

The country's wind energy generation provided 126% of all home energy needs in October, and 107% in November, while WWF also published figures from the UK’s energy regulator, Ofgem, which showed that Scotland’s solar capacity had increased by 32% in 2014.

At the end of December, energy developer Alstom announced that its tidal stream turbine off the Orkney Islands in Scotland had generated 1 GWh. A few months earlier, the Scottish Government gave approval to four separate offshore wind projects, together amounting to roughly 2.2. GW.

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