Scotland, a renewable energy leader, could cut out fossil fuels by 2030.
Renewable energy is an increasingly important industry for countries all over the world. While a country free of fossil fuels sounds difficult to achieve, the world may soon be able to look to Scotland as a blueprint. The Scottish government has made it a goal to have 100% of its electricity consumption, and at least 30% of overall energy demand, come from renewables by 2020. A 2015 study commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and completed by consulting firm DNV-GL outlined an even greener and more ambitious plan for Scotland that would rid it of all fossil fuels and nuclear power by 2030.
"Scotland’s renewable energy resources—our winds, waves, rainfall, tides, forestry and longer daylight hours, among other things—mean we’re a country with a huge head start when it comes to renewable energy," Lindsay Roberts, Senior Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables, told The Venture.
What is Scotland Doing Right?
Despite its relatively small size, Scotland is home to more than 25 percent of Europe’s offshore wind and tidal power, and thanks to its technical ingenuity, the country has become skilled at harnessing it. In 2015, wind generated enough power to supply the electrical needs of 97% of Scottish households, or 2.34 million homes, with overall yearly wind power output up 16% from 2014. And despite the perception that the country has more rain than sun, solar energy also made a huge impact. Solar power accounted for half or more of household electricity or hot water needs for most of 2015.
Here are some other steps that Scotland has taken to meet its green energy goals.
- Powering with Water: Scotland has a long hydroelectric history, with its first project dating back to 1891. Currently it is the only UK country to have any new hydroelectric schemes in the works. Fourteen plans have recently been approved throughout Scotland, which will add to the more than 140 already in existence. Scotland’s surplus of small hydroelectric projects allows for a high volume of energy production, without requiring an overwhelming amount of maintenance. The new Carrongrove project in Falkirk, for example, will take just one year to complete and it will produce enough energy for about 500 homes.
- The Promise of Wind: UK energy giant SSE announced earlier this year that it will make what may amount to the largest-ever investment in Scottish infrastructure by committing to build the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm. The $3.8 billion project, which will consist of 84 turbines, is scheduled to be completed by 2019. SSE expects the windfarm to power as many as 450,000 homes per year during its 25-year operational lifespan. "Scotland's renewables sector is stronger than ever and our early adoption of clean, green energy technology and infrastructure was the right thing to do," Scotland’s minister for business, Paul Wheelhouse, said at a press conference announcing the project.
- A Floating Windfarm: Just days before the funding of the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm was announced, the Crown Estate agreed to lease a portion of Scotland’s seabed to Norwegian energy company Statoil. The space will be used to create Hywind Windfarm, the largest floating windfarm in the world. Hywind, one of about 40 floating turbine projects in development worldwide, will be constructed 15 miles from Scotland’s east coast near the city of Peterhead.
- Investing in Development: The Scottish government also got behind offshore wind energy recently when it contributed $2.2 million to the Carbon Trust in support of its Offshore Wind Accelerator (OWA). The money will be used to research creative solutions to the problems facing the offshore wind industry, including furthering the development of floating turbines. Ultimately, the OWA aims to make offshore energy more accessible by lowering infrastructure costs.
It will take continued efforts for Scotland to shift to a 100 percent clean-energy system, but it is a realistic goal that would lead the way for the rest of the world. “Resources and a welcoming policy environment are both key in delivering renewable energy,” Roberts said. “With the popularity of renewables consistently high and the environmental imperative of tackling climate change, green energy can and should play an increasing role in the world’s energy mix.”
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