The Scottish government has set a target to deliver half the country’s heat, transport and electricity needs from renewable sources by 2030, despite ongoing support for the recovery of oil and gas production.
The new goal was unveiled as part of the SNP’s draft energy strategy and would see Scotland build on its success in sourcing almost 60% of its electricity from renewables, exceeding its 50% interim target in 2015.
With a target set for 100% green electricity by 2020, the government’s new ambition to deliver 50% of all energy needs from renewable sources by 2030 will require a significant increase from current levels. The latest figures available show Scotland reached the equivalent of 15.2% of energy consumption from renewables by 2014.
The 50% target is at the upper end of what Holyrood’s analysis has shown can be achieved and by committing to the more ambitious goal, the Scottish government says it is providing “unambiguous support for the further growth of the Scottish renewables industry”.
Paul Wheelhouse, minister for business, innovation and energy, said: “The Scottish Government is determined to support a stable, managed transition to a low carbon economy in Scotland, recognising the very real need to decarbonise our heat supplies and transport system.
“In particular, the renewable energy sector, which now employs more than 11,000 people in Scotland, and which has been a major driver of Scotland’s economy in recent years, has the potential to grow even further, helping us meet our climate change targets through extending our success in decarbonising electricity supplies to secure a step-change in decarbonising energy for heat and transport.
Despite several positive policy levers included within the SNP’s winning manifesto, there is little to support solar as a key technology within the new energy plan.
It states the government will “consider the on-going role for solar” as part of a further review of energy standards within building regulations. In addition, it will look to build on its commitment to ensure at least half of newly consented renewable energy projects have an element of shared ownership by ensuring guidance for these projects fully recognises the opportunities for solar.
Despite the limited inclusion of solar in the new energy strategy, the Solar Trade Association has welcomed the measures that are present within the document.
Isabella O’Dowd, Solar Trade Association (STA) Project Analyst, commented: “As the UK wide policy framework becomes less favourable to investors in renewables the actions of national, regional and local Governments become increasingly crucial. None more so than Scotland, where leadership on building standards has already shown what is achievable. The STA welcomes the governments continued support for solar.”
More broadly, the Scottish government will call on the UK Government to provide a stable, supportive regulatory regime, in spite of the considerable cuts made to such support since the last UK general election.
It will also seek to address grid constraints in Scotland for distributed power generation; offer financial support and advice to domestic and business customers of all sizes to uptake renewable heat technologies; and press for adequate incentives to be implemented following the closure of the current Renewable Heat Incentive in 2021.
Meanwhile, the energy strategy outlines the continued high levels of support to be given to the oil and gas sector, which underpins much of Scotland’s energy policy and delivers 75% of total energy consumption.
The government will therefore work to avoid “premature cessation” of oil and gas production through encouragement of innovation and investment, although it is unclear what form this encouragement will take.
In contrast to its renewable energy plans, the strategy states that the government will seek to create the conditions needed for Scotland to be the “go to” place for oil and gas technology solutions.
“The oil and gas sector will continue to play a vital role during that transition [to a low carbon economy], because our economy will continue to require hydrocarbons over this period,” Wheelhouse added.
In order to limit the carbon emissions associated with this fuel source, the government will look to test the capabilities of small scale carbon capture and storage, a technology abandoned by the UK government last year.