New Scottish Energy Strategy: high on de-carbonising ambition, short on ‘do able’ practicalities

The Scottish Government has today published its draft new over-arching Scottish Energy Strategy for consultation.

The strategy aims to ensure that Scotland has the best policies in place to optimise its approach to achieving goals and targets required under the new draft Climate Change Plan (published last week).

Paul Wheelhouse, MSP, the Scottish Energy Minister, said the aim of the energy strategy is to create a long-term vision for the Scottish energy system, identifying three priority areas; –

  • Securing energy supplies to meet our needs
  • Transforming energy demand and use, and:
  • Creating smart local energy systems.

In doing so, it introduces consideration of some of the potential ‘game changers’, such as hydrogen fuel and CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage), that do not yet exist at any scale in Scotland and were absent from the Climate Change Plan.

In this respect it links to the Scottish Energy Efficiency Plan (also published today) and other key existing plans and statements, such as the Electricity Generation Policy Statement (published in 2013) and Heat Policy Statement (2015).

Professor Karen Turner, Director of the Centre for Energy Policy at Strathclyde University’s International Public PoIicy Institute, commented:

“The ambitious and ‘whole system’ approach to the new Scottish Energy Strategy, particularly with a strong focus on demand and local level energy system issues, is to be welcomed.

“However, building from this initial strategy, there will be challenges in developing a set of plans and policies that are actually do-able.

“The strategy is built around a broader aim of delivering on multiple policy objectives regarding the sustainability and resilience of the energy system and the wider economy, as well as ambitions for reduced inequality across individual households and a more local-level and community-focused approach.

“Thus, it is necessary for the Scottish Government to identify any tools and levers necessary to realistically achieve their ambitions, and consider the next steps in the devolution process where these are currently reserved by Westminster.”

 On the challenge of securing ‘buy in’ from business and consumers for the more controversial ‘energy sticks’, Professor Turner warned:

“A fundamental problem that challenges the delivery of long term energy and climate goals is that a lot people need to be mobilised.

“For example, changing how we use energy requires millions of individuals and thousands of private firms ‘buy into’ and participate in progress towards what are ultimately a set of wider (even global) societal benefits that may not be perceived as delivering commensurate returns to individual household and companies.

 “Now, the question is, what levers does the Scottish Government have at its disposal, or could it seek through further devolution, that would and should do the job of realising our multiple energy, climate, economic and social policy objectives?

“The discussion must not be limited to the technological potential and possibilities – it must focus on the human side of the issue, and the public policy and political challenges that brings”.

Dr Richard Dixon, Director, Friends of the Earth Scotland, commented: “This strategy is very welcome, with a strong ambition of transforming electricity, heating and transport.

“With 50% of all energy to come from renewables by 2030 and 100% of our electricity well before then this plan sets us firmly on course to becoming one of the leading low-carbon nations in the world.

“Scotland is blessed with abundant clean energy resources and we need to harness the huge energies in the wind, waves and Sun. We are already doing very well on electricity but we must build on this and also transform energy use in transport and heating, getting away from fossil fuels.

“And if properly planned, a major expansion of renewable marine energy would be the ideal way to create a just transition for workers currently facing a bleak future in the oil industry.”

Scottish Labour economy spokesman, Jackie Baillie, MSP, welcomed the government’s 50 per cent target for renewables, but commented:

“This target is ambitious and rightly so, but the challenge will be in implementation. Too often the SNP sets targets but doesn’t follow through with action to deliver on them.

“Scotland has previously been required to import energy from elsewhere in the UK, particularly baseload power from England. Yet the SNP’s energy strategy provides little detail about how to keep the lights on. It’s clear that being part of the UK single energy market is essential to Scotland’s energy future.”

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