The Scottish Government should take bold steps to ensure a viable all-encompassing renewables industry ahead of the publication of the Scotland Energy Strategy, which is expected in January 2017.
The publication of the strategy comes at a time of rapid evolution in renewable technology, while the policy environment and financial structures are in flux. That’s why Bidwells has considered the factors which will have the greatest impact on Scotland’s energy production and which, hopefully, will be included in the strategy.
The strategy needs to be bold and assert the role of the new generation of wind turbines. The viability of onshore wind generation to help Scotland towards the electricity self-sufficiency goal relies on ensuring wind farms operate at their most efficient, which will require the widespread introduction of modern taller turbines – the visual impact of which must be acknowledged and embedded in planning policy.
Re-powering wind farms at the end of their lifetime with these modern turbines will also be necessary as obsolescence takes its toll on performance. It is acknowledged that the transition to the more efficient long tipped turbines may have a visual and disruptive impact for the local communities affected and so community involvement, where possible, to balance the impact will be essential.
We need to maximise efficiencies of renewable infrastructure by co-locating technologies where possible and considering storage solutions, such as battery storage to deliver a holistic energy strategy at this crucial time in the sector’s evolutionary story. This holistic approach should be extended to all areas of government policy whether transport, development or home insulation.
Pumped storage hydro provides the missing link in the route to electricity self-sufficiency. While the technology is well developed and proven, schemes are slow to develop due to the upfront capital required and the associated risk.
Financial security measures are required to mitigate risk to secure this long-term capital investment and the strategy must therefore be financially robust as well as creative. Greater support for run of river hydro schemes and consideration of support mechanisms for smaller scale renewables could also help stabilise and invigorate these options.
Finally, the massive energy and economic development potential of on and offshore renewables on the Scottish Islands needs to be harnessed. The development of these sites and the delivery of the sub-sea interconnectors, need public sector funding but facilitating these sites could have a positive substantive impact on the economic viability of island life.
Recent research by Scottish Renewables has highlighted that the extending targets in Scotland have meant our home-grown green energy industry has developed skills which are in demand across the globe, bringing investment and income to Scotland. Low-carbon industries and their supply chains generated almost £11bn in 2014 and supported 43,500 jobs, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics published recently.