Scotland sets 50% renewable energy target

wind turbineImage source, Getty Images

Half of Scotland's heat, transport and electricity energy needs will be met by renewables by 2030 under plans published by the Scottish government.

The draft Scottish Energy Strategy sets out a vision for the transition away from oil and gas dependency and towards a low-carbon economy by 2050.

Only 13% of Scotland's total final energy consumption came from renewable sources in 2013.

Environmental groups had been campaigning for the 50% target.

A public consultation on the proposals will run until the end of May.

'Fuel poverty'

Last week, the Scottish government set a new target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 66% by 2032.

Its energy strategy, which was unveiled by Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse at Holyrood, includes exploring the "re-powering" of existing power stations, which could see Longannet reopen as a coal-fired station with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).

It also sets out an ambition for Scotland to be the first place in the UK where onshore wind energy schemes thrive without subsidy.

And it proposes the establishment of a Scottish government-owned energy company, with responsibility for helping the growth of local and community energy projects.

But the strategy says that "most important of all" is helping to end "fuel poverty misery", partly by greatly improving the energy efficiency of existing homes.

In his foreword to the report, Mr Wheelhouse stressed that exploration and production of oil and gas in Scottish waters "will continue to provide high-value employment and a stable energy supply for decades to come".

He added: "Our ambition is that these strengths should also provide the engineering and technical bedrock for the transformational change in Scotland's energy system over the coming decades."

Image caption,
Longannet in Fife had been Scotland's last coal-fired powers station until it stopped production last year

The strategy suggests Scotland could take advantage of emerging ways of using hydrocarbons, for example in powering fuel cells in cars, and says the government will work with industry to look at opportunities for small-scale carbon capture and storage projects.

The strategy sets out a "renewed focus" on energy efficiency, pledging to make Scotland's buildings near zero carbon by 2050.

Views are also sought on the role of "green bonds" and alternative financial models for supporting low carbon technologies and services.

The government said it would announce details of up to £50m in funding for 13 projects across Scotland which would demonstrate low carbon or renewable electricity, heating or storage solutions.

Data published last year showed that Scotland had exceeded a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 42% six years early.

'Landmark proposal'

Mr Wheelhouse told MSPs in the Holyrood chamber on Tuesday afternoon that the country could take pride in its achievements.

But he said more progress was needed, particularly in the supply of low-carbon heat and transport, if the country was to remain on track to meet its ambitious climate change goals.

Mr Wheelhouse added: "To maintain momentum, a new 2030 all energy renewables target is proposed in our energy strategy, setting an ambitious challenge to deliver the equivalent of half of Scotland's energy requirements for heat, transport and electricity from renewable energy sources.

"I hope that members will welcome this landmark proposal given the support shown for such an ambition last month in this chamber during the debate on support for Scotland's renewables sector."

'Strong message'

Environmental group WWF Scotland welcomed the 50% target, which it said sent a "strong message to business and industry, both here and globally, that Scotland plans to build on its amazing progress on renewable electricity in the heat and transport sectors".

The target was unanimously welcomed by opposition parties, but they called for more detail on how it would be achieved.

Conservative MSP Alexander Burnett said considerable investment was needed in renewable heat and energy-efficiency measures.

Labour's Jackie Baillie said the target was rightly ambitious but added that the challenge would be in implementation.

And Mark Ruskell of the Scottish Greens said the government must match its new target with a commitment to "keep Scotland frack-free".

He also called for more detail on how almost two million homes could be switched to low-carbon heating by 2032 in order to meet the target of 80% of domestic heat coming from low-carbon sources.