Scotland unveils ‘interim’ renewable target

Though the Tory energy minister John Hayes caused controversy today by saying ‘enough is enough’ with wind power in the UK, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has signalled that Scotland will be keeping at the ‘forefront of the [green] sector’ by working towards an ‘interim’ target of producing 50 per cent of its electricity from renewable power by 2015.

Speaking at the RenewableUK conference in Glasgow yesterday (30 October), Salmond revealed that the 2020 Renewables Routemap has been revised to include an ‘interim’ target for 50 per cent of Scotland’s electricity demand to be met from green power by 2015. It is hoped that this new target will encourage the sector to meet the 100 per cent target by 2020.

The announcement comes after the Department of Energy and Climate Change found that Scotland met 35 per cent of its electricity demand from renewable energy in 2011, surpassing the original interim target for 2011 by four per cent.

Alex Salmond first ministerAnnouncing the new target, Salmond said: “When I became First Minister in 2007, I inherited a target for 50 per cent of Scotland’s electricity to be produced by renewable sources by 2020. We now know that we can achieve much more than that, more quickly – having already exceeded our 2011 target.

“Last year, we published a Routemap for Renewable Energy for Scotland, outlining how we would meet the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020. Today, we are publishing an update to that Routemap. It shows clearly the progress that has been made in the last year.

“In the light of that progress, I can announce that we have set a new interim target – by 2015, the equivalent of 50 per cent of Scotland’s electricity demand will be met by renewable sources. This target is ambitious, but also achievable. It is based on current data about capacity which is operational, under construction, or has been consented.

“I believe creating more clean energy is essential for Scotland and this target provides three benefits in particular – energy security; environmental sustainability; and employment opportunities.”

Drawing on Ofgem’s recent report that the UK could potentially face electricity blackouts by 2015, Salmond argued that Scotland’s position would be ‘very different’ in that generation capacity could exceed peak demand by approximately 35 per cent and help achieve its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 42 per cent by 2020.

The First Minister also told delegates that Scotland’s renewables targets presents a “massive economic opportunity” and could build on the country’s ‘bumper year’ for the sector, that saw £2.3 billion committed to renewable energy projects in Scotland – more than any other part of the UK.

Salmond added: “Scotland is in many respects uniquely positioned to develop offshore wind, wave and tidal power – we have immense natural resources, a world-class research base and generations of engineering expertise, particularly offshore.

“In total, 11,000 people are now employed in the renewable energy sector. That number will grow still further – indeed, we have estimated that offshore wind alone could support up to 28,000 direct jobs by 2020.

“The Scottish Government understands that renewable energy is essential for energy security, for environmental sustainability and for economic prosperity. For that reason, I can guarantee that we will continue to provide leadership and support for everything that you are doing here in Scotland.”

Salmond’s announcement has been welcomed by environmentalists, including Dr Dan Barlow, Head of Policy at WWF Scotland, who said: “The introduction of a new interim renewable target is welcome and will help maintain momentum towards our 100 per cent renewable goal. Scotland is already making good progress in realising our green energy potential an­­­­­­­­d this commitment will help maintain confidence in the sector and support thousands of new jobs.

“Scotland is already meeting a third of its electricity demand from renewables, with the first half of 2012 up on the same period last year. It's vital we build on this progress with similar ambition aimed at improving energy efficiency in our homes and tackling emissions from transport in order to deliver a truly low carbon Scotland."

Read more about Scotland’s interim 2015 target.