Can Scotland continue its climate lead in 2017?

New figures show that Scotland is leading the UK in reducing the climate impact of electricity generation, but green groups are calling for the country to go further and "blaze the trail" for global pollution-free power by instilling a national 50% renewable energy target.

Analysis of Government data released today (4 January) by environmental campaign group WWF Scotland has concluded that the average ‘climate change impact’ of generating a unit of electricity in Scotland is half of the average of the other home nations.

The analysis is the latest in a flurry of press releases and reports issued by WWF Scotland over the Christmas and New Year period, with others calling for more investment in energy efficiency and the delivery of a new 50% renewable energy target. 

Scotland was emitting 196gCO2 for every KWh of energy produced in 2014 – the most recent available figures – which is well below the UK’s 400gCO2/kWh average. Scotland’s climate change impact of electricity production fell by 38% between 2010 and 2014.

Commenting on the figures, WWF Scotland’s climate and energy policy officer Fabrice Leveque said: “Thanks to the Scottish Government’s leadership on renewables policy, the climate change impact of producing electricity in Scotland has fallen rapidly and is now half that of the whole of the UK. The transformation in the way we produce our power is helping Scotland harness the many economic and social benefits of shifting to a zero-carbon future.

“But electricity accounts for just one quarter of our energy use, so if we’re to meet our future climate targets, the Scottish Government must build on the progress made in the electricity sector to set a 50% renewables target for all our energy needs, across the electricity, heat and transport sectors, by 2030.”

Stifled growth

Meanwhile, a second report released on Monday (2 January) revealed that Scotland hit two significant solar power milestones in 2016, with more than 200MW of solar PV systems now installed at more than 50,000 locations across the country.

Despite this solar industry growth, WWF Scotland and the Solar Trade Association Scotland (STA Scotland) have expressed concern regarding the negative impact of more recent green policy decisions – 2016 was the slowest year for increase since 2011.

STA Scotland representative John Forster said: “Solar is the Scottish public’s most popular source of energy and one of the cheapest ways to deliver clean power. It is therefore disappointing that over the past year major policy changes by the UK Government have led to rooftop solar deployment stalling and thousands of jobs lost in the industry.

“In the coming year, the Scottish government will have the opportunity to breathe life back into the solar industry with the publication of its new strategy on climate change and energy. We urge them to build on their manifesto pledge to work with industry to expand solar, by setting out policies that will do just that.

‘Landmark’ year

Overall, Scotland did see out a “landmark” year for renewable energy generation in 2016, WWF Scotland says, thanks in part to large strides in wind and tidal energy generation. Notable highlights of the year included wind turbines generating more electricity than was used for a whole country on a single day; the installation of the world’s first operational tidal power turbine array, and the trialling of the world’s largest power turbine.

But in a third report, released last Friday (30 December), WWF Scotland and trade body Scottish Renewables have called on Scottish Ministers to build on the positive momentum of 2016 and set a more ambitious national 50% renewable energy target for 2030. The Scottish Government currently has in place a renewable energy target of 30% by 2020.

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “2016 was without doubt a landmark year for renewables in Scotland, with several world firsts achieved, new records set, and amazing innovation shown. With almost three-fifths of our electricity needs now being met from renewable sources Scotland is truly blazing a trail globally for pollution-free power.

“However, following the ratification of the Paris climate agreement, we can and should go much further. Analysis has shown that a 50% renewables target for all our energy needs by 2030 is not only needed, but that it is achievable. Ministers should now make this a Scottish Government target and bring in the policies needed in its forthcoming energy strategy.”

Public backing

And in a fourth report released by WWF Scotland on Boxing Day 2016, the group revealed that there is overwhelming public support for an increase in the amount of Government money invested in improving the energy efficiency of Scotland’s homes, according to a new survey. 

The survey of 1,000 Scots revealed that 69% are in favour of more public investment going towards energy efficiency improvements. The vast majority (87%) agreed that the Scottish Government should set a long-term objective of ensuring that no-one in Scotland is living in a cold, difficult-to-heat home by 2025. 

WWF Scotland is therefore calling for funding of home energy efficiency to be increased from the proposed £114m to £190m with a total of £4.5bn of public funds being spent between now and 2025, through subsidised loans, grants for the fuel-poor and other schemes.

Alex Baldwin

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