EXCLUSIVE by Staff Reporter
Scotland runs the risk over over-shooting its 2020 renewable energy supply targets by over-commissioning wind farms and other renewable electricity suppliers, according to a conservation group.
Targets set by the Scottish Government for renewable electricity generation have now virtually been met by schemes that are already operating or have been consented. UK renewable electricity schemes in operation or consented – including Scotland’s – now account for nearly all of the subsidies available from the Treasury up to 2020.
Energy Minister Fergus Ewing stated recently: ‘The Scottish Government’s target is to generate the equivalent of 100% of Scotland’s gross annual electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2020 as part of a wider, balanced, low carbon energy mix’.
In 2012, Scotland’s gross electricity consumption was about 36.6 TWh. Output from operational and consented capacity (17 and 18 TWh respectively) is already capable of generating about 35 TWh – very close to the target. Schemes still in planning, almost all of which are wind, have the potential to produce an additional 18.1 TWh – grossly in excess of what is needed, according to new research published by the Borders Network of Conservation Groups (BNCG.)
A spokesman for BNCG said: “Scottish renewables targets seemed ambitious at the time they were set, given their low starting point, but growth in renewables across the UK has accelerated rapidly under generous subsidy schemes.
“Now that the Treasury’s renewables subsidy pot is almost empty, the Scottish Government needs to consider the logic – and potential liability to Scottish citizens – of allowing schemes that are surplus to its 2020 target to come on stream.
“If the renewables target is overshot, taxpayers will incur heavy costs in unnecessary subsidies – over and above the hundreds of millions of subsidies for those operational and consented schemes needed to meet the 2020 target.”
The Renewable Energy Foundation calculates that green power generators in Scotland received more than £600 million in public subsidies last year (with 91.5% being paid for by electricity consumers in the rest of the UK). This sum WILL almost double as schemes that have consent but are awaiting construction come on stream. To put this in context, £1.2 billion was more than 10% of Scotland’s income tax last year (2013).
The spokesman added: “As the Scottish Government has an annual budget of around £54bn, it is clear that an independent Scotland would face substantial –and completely unnecessary – subsidy payments should it sanction an overshoot in this country’s renewables target.”
The Borders Network of Conservation Groups – formally set up in spring 2014 – is a not-for-profit organisation, with no party political alignment, and includes among its membership conservation groups, amenity societies and non-statutory planning consultees.
In reply, Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said that approval is not granted for every renewables energy project: “Not all projects consented or in the planning system will proceed. The whole of the UK needs to produce and supply greater amounts of renewable electricity to meet legally binding targets and help keep the lights on as part of a low carbon future”. He added:
“Suppliers in England and Wales will continue to have a legal obligation to source increasing amounts of renewable power for their customers, regardless of the outcome of the independence referendum. The recent independent Expert Commission report agreed not only that the single energy market is the most sensible option, but that the current sharing of renewable support costs across the UK should continue in the event of independence.”
“The current payments from suppliers to generators, funded through consumers’ electricity bills, reflect the huge amount of renewable power which Scotland produces, not to our population size.