Harnessing renewables could provide £725m windfall for Scottish islands

A cluster of Scottish islands including the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland could receive a £725m economic boost if they were converted into renewable outposts, a new independent report has found.

Commissioned by the Scottish Government, the report suggests that island economies could benefit from a £725m windfall over the next 25 years if appropriate investment is made into grid infrastructure and renewable generating assets and deployment.

“This report confirms the potential of the vast renewable resources of our islands,” Scotland’s Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism Fergus Ewing said. “They are arguably the best places in Europe to deliver renewable energy.

“The wind speeds are the strongest and they have the best potential for wave and tidal energy in the future. The potential considerable economic and employment benefits from renewables mean it is vital for the UK Government to deliver on their commitment to the islands.”

Along with other Council leaders, Ewing has written to UK Energy Secretary Amber Rudd, urging her to fast-track the permissions process for the islands, citing the report as evidence of its generating potential.

Analysis in the report – published in partnership with energy consultancy Baringa – suggests that the islands could supply around 5% of Britain’s total electricity market by 2030. It also states that community benefits from the installation of renewable projects could reach £225m while revenues to community owned equity could peak at £390m.

Improving the grid infrastructure in the Orkney Islands could increase revenue from existing wind developments by £2.7m a year. If improvements were made across all of the islands, an extra 2,000 jobs would become available, the researchers claim.

Monumental month

This call to action has been echoed by WWF, with the environmental group this week publishing new data from WeatherEnergy which highlights the rising output of wind and solar generation for the month of February.

Wind turbines in Scotland provided 929,417MWh of electricity to the National Grid in February, enough to supply 41% of the country’s electricity needs, and a 5% increase on last year’s figures.

Domestic solar photovoltaics generated around 53% of the electricity needs in Dundee, while output was slightly less in Aberdeen at 49%.

Commenting on the figures, WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “It’s quite amazing to think that during February wind turbines alone quietly provided over forty per cent of Scotland’s total electricity needs. However, the shift to a low-carbon society not only calls for an increase in the proportion of the nation’s demand met by renewables but also a national strategy to reduce demand overall.”

Scotland met its 50% renewable electricity target a year ahead of schedule after a surge of 11.7% in 2014. This led to Industry body Scottish Renewables calling for an ambitious new target of generating at least half of the country’s total energy demands from renewables by 2030. However, another recent report predicted that Scotland would miss its 100% renewable electricity target for 2020, unless further investment in onshore and offshore wind is supported.

Matt Mace

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