Scotland steps up plans for 100% green electricity by 2020

Posted on 6 March 2012

The Scottish government has issued a rallying call for businesses and local communities to exploit the country’s vast renewable energy resource, in a new consultation designed to deliver 100 per cent green electricity by 2020.

Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing yesterday launched the draft Electricity Generation Policy Statement (EGPS), setting out plans to build up renewable energy and fossil fuel thermal generation in Scotland’s future energy mix.

The report is based on a series of key targets, including delivering the equivalent of at least 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2020, with a minimum of 2.5GW of thermal generation progressively fitted with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).

The report also confirmed nuclear energy would be phased out in Scotland over time, with no new nuclear build taking place in Scotland beyond the two existing plants.

Ewing said the report was designed to demonstrate that Scotland could feasibly meet its green energy targets, despite criticism that they were too ambitious.

“We know there is doubt and scepticism about our 100 per cent renewables target, and the financial and engineering challenges required to meet it,” he said.

“But we will meet these challenges. I want to debate, engage and co-operate with every knowledgeable, interested and concerned party to ensure we achieve our goals.”

Significantly, the report predicts that the country’s renewable energy strategy would result in electricity bills that are around £100 a year cheaper as generators switch to more secure domestic energy sources.

The statement also includes a proposal for Scotland to impose separate Emissions Performance Standards (EPS) on new power stations to those proposed by the Westminster government under the Electricity Market Reform proposals.

An EPS is intended to act as a regulatory backstop on the amount of emissions a new fossil fuel power station can emit. However, the Scottish government maintained a wider UK EPS policy would have little impact in Scotland, as power stations are already required to be fitted with 300MW of CCS capability from the start and then move to full CCS capability over time.

“While we are absolutely clear that emissions from power stations will need to fall to meet our 2030 decarbonisation objective for the power sector, it should in principle be a matter of Scottish discretion to determine the most effective mechanism to achieve this,” said the statement.

However, it added that some parties might prefer to work under the UK-wide framework as the EMR proposals have already created “significant uncertainty in the market”.

The statement was welcomed by utilities and National Grid for providing greater clarity on the future of Scotland’s energy mix.

“The future energy mix is uncertain and this statement sets out a clear vision for the future of energy in Scotland. It will further enable National Grid and other industry participants to effectively plan the networks of the future,” said Alison Kay, commercial director for National Grid.

Keith Anderson, Scottish Power’s Chief Corporate Officer and CEO of Scottish Power Renewables, said low carbon investment would be critical to help Scotland achieve its renewable energy targets, as well as as a catalyst for economic growth and job creation.

Dr Sam Gardner, senior climate change policy officer at WWF Scotland, said the statement was a blow to plans by Peel Energy to build a new coal-fired power station at Hunterston, in Ayrshire.

“The writing has been on the wall for a long time, over 22,000 members of the public and North Ayrshire Council have already rejected the proposal,” he said. “We now hope Peel Energy will finally realise their plans are not part of the Scottish government’s energy future and walk away.”

In related news, Liberal Democrat Scottish Secretary Michael Moore has reiterated concerns that Scottish independence could deter investment in Scotland’s renewable energy market.

Speaking at the Liberal Democrat Scottish Conference in Inverness this weekend, Moore warned that up to £4bn of annual green energy subsidies could be at risk if Scotland gained independence.

He cited a report by Citigroup that argued an independent Scotland would be too small to generate the annual subsidy initially required to drive the move to a low carbon economy.

“Across the UK we have a single energy market, and that market is key to realising Scotland’s renewables potential,” he said.

“Yes, we have vast green energy resources. But we alone could not afford the level of investment needed to make good on our green ambitions.”

The Scottish government has downplayed such warnings in the past, arguing that separate research has suggested an independent Scotland could continue to attract sufficient capital.