Scot-Govt aims for new 2018 climate-change bill as Brexit threat to renewables remains

The Scottish Government has vowed to deliver 50% of all energy from renewables across heat, transport and electricity, alongside plans to phase out new polluting petrol and diesel vehicles by 2032.

This year, a new Scottish Climate Change Bill is set to be published by the minority-led SNP Scot-Govt – which may incorporate the draft Scottish Energy Strategy. 

The Scot-Govt target remains way ahead of the EU goal – agreed in in Brussels last month in the shadow of the UK-EU Brexit talks.

Scotland remained at the forefront of the global low-carbon transition in 2017, while households reduced their energy consumption by an average of 25% in eight years thanks to the growth of renewables and improved energy efficiency measures.

But yesterday, the Labour party claimed that Scotland is lagging behind the rest of the UK in reducing CO2 emissions.

The most recent statistics show Scotland had the second lowest decrease in CO2 emissions of any region of the UK, of just two per cent between 2014 and 2015.

Analysis of local authority emissions show the Highlands had the largest increase in emissions of any council area in the entire UK, at 28 per cent from 2014 to 2015.

The SNP government has cut the environmental departmental budget by 2.3 per cent in real terms in the last five years.  It has also cut the agriculture budget from £10.3 million in 2017-18 to £5.6 million for 2018-19 –  despite agriculture being a heavy greenhouse gas emitter.

A Labour spokesman said the figures ‘show that the Scottish Government is not taking enough action to tackle climate change’, and called on the government to drop plans for an airline departure tax cut.

Meanwhile, in Brussels, the Council of EU Ministers supported the EU Commission’s proposed 27% target for renewables by 2030.  

The Council watered down the Governance Regulation but agreed to set three indicative benchmarks; by 2023, they should meet 24% of both the 27% target and national goals. By 2025, progress should be at 40% and 60% in 2027. 

Renewables now supply more than half of Scotland’s electricity output, while advances have been made in the energy efficiency of buildings due to domestic legislation and more efficient appliances, driven by EU regulations.

Highlights from last year included the world’s first floating wind farm delivering electricity to the Scottish grid and the country’s largest solar farm receiving the green light.

However, onshore large wind and solar power farms remain without a route to market, while business rate increases – quickly followed by a cap and its extension – have hit the small-hydro sector hard.

These issues will continue to challenge both industry and government throughout 2018, along with the threats to renewables from Brexit.

Antony Froggatt and Georgina Wright from the Chatham House think-tank, warned: “The UK and the EU27 have said they want a close partnership post-Brexit, but this year could test their co-operation on environmental protection in three ways

  • “Firstly, Brexit could have short term implications for the monitoring and reporting of the European Emissions Trading System – precisely at a time where annual allowances are up for negotiation.
  • “Secondly, planning for longer term climate action will become more challenging in the absence of a clear steer from the UK on whether it plans to participate in EU climate schemes and targets post-Brexit.
  • “And thirdly, the loss of a strong proponent of climate action in the European Council could also constrain the EU27’s ambition for global climate action post-Brexit.” 

But the biggest Brexit threat to (Anglo) Scottish renewables remains the high political risk that a separatist-Tory-led British Government may reduce its carbon emissions targets on Independence from the EU-bloc.

Meanwhile, low-carbon technologies generated half of the UK’s electricity in 2017, outstripping the combined power output from coal and gas for the first time.

Renewable energies and nuclear power accounted for just over 50% of generation last year, with 46.7% coming from gas and coal, according to figures from Carbon Brief

Gas remains the single largest source of generation, supplying 40% of the total, with nuclear (21%) and wind (16%) taking second and third place.

But Dr Simon Evans from Carbon Brief, warned: “Eighty per cent of UK emissions reduction in the past five years has coming from burning less coal – which clearly puts into perspective how little progress has been made in other parts of the economy <in de-carbonising transport and heat.”

And power sector emissions – including large quantities from N. Sea oil operations – remain far above what will be needed to meet legally-binding UK carbon targets, while progress in decarbonising the rest of the economy is limited. 

The latest analysis comes after data from WWF and National Grid plc showed a slew of “green” records were broken in 2017. The shift to renewables, with record moments of output for solar, wind and hydropower, meant new low levels of carbon pollution from electricity were set last year.

And the cost of new offshore wind tumbled in the latest Government auctions for subsidised support for the technology. The government recently ruled out additional low-carbon subsidies in the medium term, beyond those already agreed or promised.

But, rapid cost declines  for renewables means subsidy-free deployment might become increasingly possible, even if long-term contracts might still be needed.

Over the past year, the largest increase in generation for a single source came from wind, which was up 31% to 49 terawatt hours (TWh) in 2017. The was due to capacity increasing by a fifth, but also due to more favourable wind speeds, up 7% in the first 11 months of the year.

While power sector emissions must fall further, analysis from the Climate Change Committee (the statutory advisory board to the Brit-Govt) suggests the UK will only meet its legally-binding carbon budgets with emissions cuts across the whole economy – ie heating and transport.

Last year was hailed by environmental campaigners as the “greenest year ever”, with 2018 expected to see an even cleaner power sector – but there were calls for more Government support for low carbon electricity to reduce dependency on gas.

*In the USA, New York yesterday announced two tenders to develop at least 800 MW of offshore wind-power electricity generation projects in a drive to meet the previously set target for 2,400 MW of offshore wind by 2030. The 800 MW of sought offshore wind power generating capacity will be enough to power 400,000 households, according to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

More than half of Norway’s new car sales are now electric or hybrid

Generous tax breaks and incentives like free city tolls and parking have put Norway en route to delivering an electric-only vehicle market by 2025

Hybrid and/or battery-powered vehicles (BPVs) accounted for more than half of all new cars sold in Norway in 2017. 

Norway is similar in size and natural resources to Scotland – but fewer than 100 new BPVs were sold here last year.

Zero-emission, mainly BPVs as well as a few hydrogen-powered cars accounted for 20.9% of total sales in 2017. Hybrid vehicles accounted for 31.3%, including 18.4% for plug-in hybrids, the Norwegian Road Federation calculated.

This represents an increase over the previous year, when zero-emission and hybrid cars accounted for 15.7% and 24.5% respectively of total sales, making Norway a world leader in de-carbonising road transport.

5 Jan 2018

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