Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Scotland's Bold Renewable Targets

Last week saw a stunning landslide victory for the Scottish National Party in elections to the Scottish Parliament, achieving an overall majority; the first party to do so since inception of the Parliament in 1999.  This removes a key barrier to implementing policies leaving no excuse for failure.

The SNP election manifesto is big on environmental pledges, including promoting green heat, reducing fuel poverty, reducing waste and increasing renewable energy.  In fact, its ambition for renewable energy is one of the boldest I've seen: 100% of renewable electricity by 2020. An extract from the Manifesto is shown below:

So, 100% of electricity from renewable sources within 9 years.  This requires a factor of 4 increase in generation from the current 25-30%, or perhaps more achievable a doubling of electricity generation combined  with a halving of consumption.  Even then it is ambitious, so how can it be achieved?

The extra generation is anticipated to come from off-shore wind - something which is still in its infancy in Scotland and faces significant logistical challenges; and this in the face of the Committee on Climate Change's  recent report calling for restraint on offshore wind.  An important nuance of the policy is that not all electricity consumed in Scotland would be from renewable sources, but rather the average will be 100%, with surplus exported south when the wind blows and shortfalls imported when it doesn't.  This is a bit of a fudge as it does not address the intermittency issue.

You and I come in on the demand side. A 50% reduction in electricity consumption requires significant changes to our lifestyles: switching appliances off instead of on standby will not touch this type of saving (although it is a start).  Most of us will replace the main electrical appliances in our home - fridges, washing machines, etc,  over the next nine years and replacing them with the most energy efficient models can make significant inroads toward this target.  Possibly the biggest saving is if you have electric heating which can be economised through home improvements such as draft proofing and better insulation and the SNP do have plans to improve home insulation to reduce fuel poverty which will help. Once the quick and easy changes have been implemented we are left with the harder lifestyle choices.

A significant challenge in reducing consumption is not encouraging those most concerned with our environmental vandalism, but encouraging everyone else to do their bit. If one in five households half their electricity consumption but the remainder do nothing we have no hope so...

... why don't you switch off the telly and do something more interesting instead ...

                                ...and tell a friend.


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