Energy Shift Scotland
It’s a milestone that charts the epoch-making choices ahead of us, contrasting sharply against the chaos and carnage of chemical giant INEOS’s shale gas experiment and the UK’s discredited nuclear programme.
Records just released from the Department for Energy and Climate Change from the first half of 2014, show renewables generated 32% more electricity than any other single source of power in Scotland. In total, the renewables sector generated a record 10.3TWh (terawatt-hours)1, compared to 7.8TWh2 from nuclear generation – previously Scotland’s main source of electricity. Renewables also now eclipse coal and gas-fired electricity in generation whilst also contributing hugely to the green economy. It’s estimated that marine energy alone may be worth £50bn by 2050.
Lang Banks from WWF Scotland hailed the news saying:
“Renewables overtaking nuclear power to become the largest source of electricity is certainly historic, and represents a major step on the way to Scotland becoming a 100 per cent renewable nation. Last month, while nuclear reactors were forced to shut because of cracks, Scotland’s renewables were quietly and cleanly helping to keep the lights on in homes across the country. Wind turbines in Scotland alone generated enough electricity to supply three millions homes in the UK – equivalent to 126 per cent of the electricity needs of every home north of the border. Put simply, renewables work and are helping to cut climate change emissions and create jobs in Scotland.”
There’s now a stark choice: an open door to a low-carbon future with green jobs, energy security and a clean energy source without waste disposal or supply issues, or investing in fossil fuels to create profits for polluting companies that extract resource at every level. Now would be the time to combine this output with a decrease in demand by investing properly in insulation, smart technology and a cultural shift to a different expectation around energy use. Joined-up thinking by Nicola Sturgeon’s government would see that ending fuel poverty and tackling climate change have the same solution.
Now decentralised and community owned renewables are the next part of the shift to a viable energy system or Scotland, one that puts us in charge of our energy economy as well as our ecological future. But this is also a remarkable turning point given the onslaught of anti-renewable propaganda in the press and the vested interests of the nuclear industry in government. But in order to protect and make proper use of our natural renewable resources – and to protect against the breakthrough being undermined by nuclear waste and fracking – we need the transfer of full powers of energy policy to be transferred to Scotland from Westminster.
While this announcement is a major milestone, it’s not enough on its own.
As Niall Stuart, from Scottish Renewables, has said we are still in the early stages of developing the full potential of renewable energy. Offshore wind and marine energy in particular are still in the early stages of development. Mr Stuart said:
“Every unit of power generated from renewables means less carbon emitted from the burning of fossil fuels, decreases our reliance on imported energy and supports jobs and investment in communities across Scotland. Offshore wind and marine energy are still in the early stages of development but could make a big contribution to our future energy needs if they get the right support from government. That support includes the delivery of grid connections to the islands, home to the UK’s very best wind, wave and tidal sites.”
The announcement is likely to further embarrass the beleaguered nuclear industry, where Scottish taxpayers will be picking up a portion of the “astonishing” £70 billion decontamination costs for Sellafield as well as witnessing a catalogue of incidents across the country in recent months including: two serious breakdowns at Hunterston nuclear power station in North Ayrshire, a ship carrying radioactive waste catching fire and going adrift in the Moray Firth, a fire at the Dounreay nuclear complex in Caithness and excess emissions of radioactive tritium gas coming under investigation at Chapelcross in Dumfries and Galloway.