Independent Scots think-tank calls for new Scottish Energy Agency to deliver ‘Renewable Scotland 2030’ de-carbonisation programme

Brit-Govt energy policy since 1980 has failed Scotland – but the SNP-led Scot-Govt has also under-performed in terms of achieving a Renewable Scotland by 2030.

That is the key conclusion of a new report from the Glasgow-based Common Weal think-tank, which also calls for the government to set up a new Scottish Energy Agency – which takes forward and includes the Scot-Govt ‘aspiration’ to set up an independent Scottish energy company.

UK energy policy since 1980 has failed Scotland. It has led to the six largest energy companies seeing profit margins rise 4.48% since 2016, with 34.9% of households in Scotland currently facing fuel poverty.

The paper sets a 2030 timeline for achieving this Renewable Scotland transformation, focusing on the changes needed in energy infrastructure, battery-powered vehicles (BPVs) autonomous distribution and renewable shipping, and makes the following key recommendations: –

Recommendations for Renewable Scotland 2030

The Scottish Government should invest in energy infrastructure and electric vehicles to meet 75% of overall energy demand by 2030.

Scotland has only captured 0.06% of marine energy potential. The Scottish Government should boost R&D in wave and tidal technology, with an aim to capture 25% of marine energy resource by 2030.

The Scottish Energy Agency should work with the NorthConnect – a publicly-owned Scandinavian consortium – to provide Scotland with a route to export its additional renewable resource to mainland Europe

Invest £82 million in additional funding to build up Scotland’s charging infrastructure, with an aim to see five charging stations for every 1,000 electric vehicle drivers.

Autonomous vehicles require testing trails in Scotland to have a greater understanding of the market. £19 million would be required for testing cars in rural and urban areas.

All ferry services run by Caledonian MacBrayne should be run on electric or hybrid vessels by 2030 with an additional 0.0025GW added to the energy demand.

Create a Carbon Fund wherein the business sector commits to achieving certain emission reductions through payments to an environmental fund, and these are then fed back to industry actors as investment support for additional costs incurred in enacting measures to reduce emissions.

Although the proposed new Scottish Energy Agency would be targeting renewable technologies to meet its energy demand, it would also take responsibility over North Sea oil & gas.

Oil & gas is significant to Aberdeenshire and the surrounding areas. So as not to dramatically affect the local economy, a plan of diversification and weaning off the reliance on oil & gas is necessary to encourage job security. A decommissioning strategy is also needed to control the reduction of oil production in the area

The report notes that the British energy industry is now dominated by six big electricity and gas supply companies – most of which are owned outwith the UK: these companies (and their respective nationalities) are:

  • Centrica British Gas (UK)
  • Scottish Power (Spanish)
  • Scottish & Southern Energy (UK)
  • EDF (French)
  • E.On (German)
  • Npower (German)

Energy prices in the UK are soaring to some of the highest in Europe after these Big Six providers increased their electricity prices as follows:

  • Scottish & Southern Energy raised prices by 14.9% in June 2017.
  • Scottish Power raised prices by 10.8% in March 2017
  • EDF raised prices by 8.4% in March 2017.
  • E.On raised prices by 13.8% in April 2017.
  • British Gas raised prices by 12.5% in September 2017.
  • Npower raised prices by 15% in March 2017

The profit margins for these companies have hit the highest level on record, rising 4.48% from 2016. In contrast to these large profits recorded, 34.9% of households in Scotland currently face fuel poverty.

Scotland is very rich in energy resource – but it has been widely underdeveloped. Scotland is currently producing the following power capacity:

  • Onshore wind: 6.767GW produced, 11.5 GW potential
  • Offshore wind: 0.187GW produced, 25 GW potential
  • Wave/Tidal: 0.013GW produced, 21.5 GW potential
  • Hydro: 1.632GW produced, 2.7 GW potential

Wave and tidal power have higher capacity factors as their resource is constant, creating a base load of supply. However, as tidal and wave generation are early in their development, there is great potential to optimise implementation.

Scotland has broken world records in tidal generation, with the MeyGen project in the Pentland Firth, run by Atlantis Resources to generate 700MWh of electricity from two turbines in August 2017. That is the equivalent of heating 2,000 homes from two turbines.

Research by Edinburgh University estimates that 1.9 GW is available in the Pentland Firth, between mainland Scotland and Orkney.Scotland’s marine energy sector had invested £217 million by 2014, with 62% of the supply chain based in Scotland. This is of great benefit to local economies.

Yet it is estimated that Scotland’s marine energy sector could be worth £50 billion by 2050.

That is dependent on Scotland building up wave and tidal energy, which is currently 0.06% of total potential of 21.5 GW, with some estimates expecting marine energy to reach 33 GW.

Scotland should seek to increase R&D investment in wave & tidal energy, with an aim to see 25% of the resource being captured by 2030, which would provide an additional 5.375GW.

The author of the report – electrical design engineer Craig Berry – concludes: “With the offshore wind and wave & tidal generation capacity for expansion, Scotland could become a major exporter of renewable energy to mainland Europe.

“But Scotland’s capability to implement energy policy is currently hindered and as such is unable to realise its potential as a powerhouse of renewable energy without a radical shift in the UK Government’s approach to energy.

“The Scottish Government would have the ability to enact many of the policies put forward throughout this paper under devolution, but a key constraint on a truly transformative policy is the limited fiscal powers devolved to Holyrood (especially borrowing powers), which requires further devolution which encroaches beyond energy policy.

“The limitations of a UK privately-run energy grid would also act as a limiting factor on the proposals proposed above. The more powers that the Scottish Parliament can gain – up to and including independence – the better equipped Scotland will be to develop a fully-fledged bespoke energy strategy.”

19 Feb 2018


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