A THREE-FOLD increase in the number of on-shore wind turbines will be needed over the next decade if Scotland is to meet its renewable targets, according to a major energy report.
It predicts that by 2020, more than 2,000 new turbines will be required to meet the target of providing 50 per cent of electricity from clean, green, renewable sources.
The study, commissioned by the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI), forecasts that the current 1.3GW output from working wind farms in Scotland will have to increase five-fold to 6.6GW.
It is predicted the new, bigger turbines will take up five times as much space as the 900 now in place.
The report re-ignites the debate over nuclear power in Scotland. It suggests new nuclear power stations should be “considered as a potential part of the longer term generation base in Scotland”, amid questions as to how to replace existing power plants with low-carbon alternatives beyond 2020.
The wind-farm predictions in the report, The Future of Electricity Generation in Scotland, mean Scotland would require about 450MW of new onshore wind power – more than twice the size of the country’s biggest operational wind farm, with 90 turbines – every year until 2020.
Iain Duff, SCDI’s chief economist, said: “This study shows that Scotland can hit its ambitious targets to produce 50 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020, but only if we see investment in new generation on an unprecedented scale in recent times.”
The report says the vast majority of electricity from renewables needed to meet the 2020 targets will be provided by onshore wind, with offshore wind, wave and tidal not likely to play a significant role until further into the future.
The predictions have been described as realistic by some experts, although others believe they are pessimistic about the likely development of other renewables, such as offshore wind, hydro, wave and tidal.
Anti-wind farm campaigners said they were “horrified” by the findings.
Jason Ormiston, the chief executive of Scottish Renewables, said: “I think the assumption of about 6GW of onshore wind is about right for 2020. I would like to see more, but I think that’s about realistic.”
However, he thinks the report is “pessimistic” about the likely mix of renewables, and says offshore wind and marine technologies are likely to be deployed by 2020. He described his view on nuclear as one of “agnosticism”.
Lewis Macdonald, Scottish Labour’s energy spokesman, thought the report was “fair and balanced”. He said: “It’s based on scientific evidence, which is that most of what needs to be built between now and 2020 to meet the targets will be onshore wind.”
He added there were “larger issues at stake” than the views of anti-wind farm campaigners.
“I support the target of 50 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2020,” he said. “It’s simply a fact that if we do support that, we have to support a development in the wind sector.
“Obviously, we want good-quality applications coming forward and good-quality facilities being built in the right places, but the environmental impact of not having a lower-carbon economy would be far greater than the environmental impact of anything that will be built.
“There are larger issues at stake here, which are around climate change and how future generations will live.”
On the issue of nuclear power, he agreed that it would be “a mistake to rule (it] out at this stage”.
Richard Dixon, the director of WWF Scotland, said he thought the report exaggerated the role of onshore wind. He envisaged more of a mix of renewables to meet the 2020 targets.
He questioned the stance of the SCDI, which he said was historically “very close to the nuclear industry”, and suggested they were using “scare tactics” in their predictions of extra wind farms. “They seem to be raising the bogey man of lots more big wind farms when, in fact, it will be some onshore wind, some offshore, some wave and tidal,” he said.
Bob Graham, an anti-wind farm campaigner, said he would be “absolutely horrified” if 2,000 extra wind turbines were even being considered for Scotland. “It’s not economically viable,” he said. “The subsidies required to support that industry are huge and the carbon savings would be negligible.”
He agreed that nuclear must be considered. “It’s the only way we can generate big amounts of electricity that we can use, because you can’t guarantee the generation of electricity from renewables, and, in particular, wind,” he said.
Gillian Bishop, the secretary of anti-wind farm group Views of Scotland, said she was “madder than hell” about the idea. She went on: “There just seem to be more and more and more, and where on earth are we going to put these things?”
Peter Osbaldstone, of Wood Mackenzie, a consultancy firm involved in the research, said: “There are signs of future development of biomass, wave and tidal technologies, but we really don’t see a significant breakthrough in these fields at this time.”
He said it was important to keep nuclear as an option in case carbon capture and storage technology did not work.
Jim Mather, the energy minister, is optimistic about the renewables targets being met, and thinks a mix of sources will be used. “There are a vast array of renewables at Scotland’s disposal, with commercial interest – and investment – in new tidal, wood fuel and wave energy schemes,” he said.
He added that he was against “dangerous and unnecessary” new nuclear power stations being considered.
Cutting 70 mph limit on M-ways would aid emissions bid
DRASTIC measures such as reducing the motorway speed limit to 60mph may be needed if efforts to cut damaging climate change emissions fail, according to the head of an influential committee.
David Kennedy, chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change, responsible for advising the governments in the UK on how to achieve their emissions targets, visited Edinburgh yesterday.
He told The Scotsman he hoped drastic measures would not be needed to meet the emissions targets of an 80 per cent reduction by 2050.
However, he said one way of bringing down emissions could be to reduce the speed limit, or to enforce the 70mph speed limit more heavily.
“If we are really scratching around for ways to reduce emissions it is one thing that could be considered,” he said.
“We are not recommending it, but it’s an option that we would consider.”
He said he was “optimistic” that the 2050 targets could be met. “All of these things are within our grasp,” he added.
And he said although it would require fundamental shifts in areas such as use of insulation and electric cars, it “doesn’t require radical changes in behaviour”.
Mr Kennedy said he believed it would be possible in Scotland to meet the targets without building new nuclear power stations, a stance adopted by the Scottish Government.
“If the government is successful in significantly increasing the role of renewables then it wouldn’t need nuclear to deliver the target.”
He said Scotland would have a huge role to play in enabling the UK to meet its targets.
However, although he said it probably had a greater role to play than Northern Ireland, he did not think it was greater than Wales or England.
He said Scotland had an opportunity to benefit from its renewables resources.
“There are industries that can prosper. How much they can prosper is almost impossible to say.”
Stevenson’s grand plan to tackle climate change
A SCOTTISH minister told an international audience yesterday he had been busy developing the most ambitious climate change legislation in the world.
Stewart Stevenson was addressing a summit in Poznan, running alongside a key international UN climate change conference.
The minister told the climate group leaders’ summit: “Over the last year we have been extremely busy developing what we believe to be the most ambitious climate change legislation anywhere in the world.”
He described the draft Scottish Climate Change Bill, published on Friday. It set annual targets for emissions reduction, and, unlike any other government’s climate change legislation, will include emissions from international aviation and shipping from the start.
“Some have called it the strongest climate change legislation in the world – it will set a target to reduce all Kyoto greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 from a 1990 baseline,” he said.
“The 80 per cent target will include emissions from international aviation and shipping – we believe we are the first country to do so within a legally binding emission reduction target.”
And he described plans to assess the carbon impact of total Scottish Government expenditure.
“In Scotland, government spending accounts for around one third of Scottish GDP. This investment influences how we travel, how we live, what services we consume and, to some extent, what goods we consume – whether they originate in Scotland or not.
“So we need to understand the carbon impact of our investment and – more importantly – we need to use that information to help us reduce the carbon intensity of our spend over time.
“We know this is a complex task for which there are few parallels. We are not aware of any other government that assesses the carbon impact of its total expenditure as part of a Budget-setting process, nor of any equivalent approach in the private sector.”
The UN conference in Poznan is aiming to come up with a route map as to how to move ahead with plans to set international emissions reductions targets in Copenhagen next December