The Scottish Government has set a 50% renewable energy target in its new draft energy strategy.
The consultation paper highlights the huge huge shifts in electricity generation in recent years, following the closure of Longannet. There has been a big increase in new supply of renewable electricity. However, that leaves Scotland with a different kind of energy challenge; one where heat and transport take on even greater significance than electricity.
Choices about the local supply and consumption of energy are broadening, and the patterns of energy use are also changing. There are opportunities to shape Scotland’s future energy system, and to help tackle the challenges of climate change, affordability of energy, and the efficiency of energy use.
In parliament this afternoon the energy minister, Paul Wheelhouse said:
"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."
The plan aims to deliver:
- a modern, integrated, clean energy system, delivering reliable energy supplies at an affordable price, in a market that treats all consumers fairly; and
- a strong, low carbon economy – sharing the benefits across our communities, reducing social inequalities and creating a vibrant climate for innovation, investment and high value jobs.
The ‘whole system’ view seeks to describe where Scotland’s energy comes from and how it is used. Energy efficiency is to be the cornerstone of this through the SEEP programme.
The ‘stable transition’ is driven by the need to further decarbonise the energy system, in line with emissions reduction targets. However, this still involves a ‘strong oil and gas sector’ and a commitment to support carbon capture. That will be challenging given that the UK government made a complete hash of pilot schemes, as highlighted by the National Audit Office recently.
The ‘smarter model of local energy provision’ means moving away from central provision to local innovation. There is considerable opportunity to create decentralised or distributed energy systems, but progress so far has been pretty slow in real community ownership. 35% of Scotland’s electricity generation still comes from our two nuclear power plants.
The strategy repeats the commitment explore the potential to create a government owned energy company (GOEC) to help the growth of local and community projects – although still no detail. This will include empowering communities to use the income from energy development to support other communities develop their energy potential. They will also explore the creation of a Scottish Renewable Energy bond in order to allow savers to invest in and support Scotland’s renewable energy sector.
It is important to emphasise that this is an energy strategy, not just an electricity generation plan. So heat and transport use are also important issues.
On jobs, the paper claims the renewable energy industry employs 14,000 people, with up to 43,000 in the wider low carbon and renewable energy economy. To put that in context, 125,000 are employed in oil and gas production.
There is a separate consultation published today on unconventional gas (fracking), so no decision. The paper places considerable emphasis on new energy sources and it is very difficult to see how dirty fuel from fracking fits into this strategy.
Overall, the ambition in the strategy will certainly be welcomed, although there will be some concern that the new strategy is no clearer than the old one on how it will be achieved. In particular, there is no detailed breakdown of what the future energy mix will actually be. Much of Scotland’s energy policy also remains reserved, and the strategy, predictably, if largely fairly, highlights a number of damaging decisions.
There will be a four month consultation closing on 30 May 2017.