Scottish Energy 2020?

In this report we present a practical engineering view of the key issues and challenges to be addressed if Scotland is serious about achieving this target.

We undertook the analysis presented in this report in response to the Scottish government’s declaration that by 2020, 20% of the total energy demand in Scotland would be met from renewable resources.

During the research for this report, First Minister Alex Salmond announced that the Scottish government had increased the overall percentage target for energy from renewable sources to 30% by 2020.

In light of this report’s analysis, this aspirational target appears to represent an ambition that cannot be justified from an engineering perspective. In the absence of a credible publicly presented plan to deliver Scotland’s renewable energy at the scale required, we consider what these targets mean from an engineering viewpoint.

Key recommendations

While we fully support the desire of the Scottish government to maximise the enormous potential for renewable energy that exists in Scotland, this aspiration must be moderated by a pragmatic, ‘real world’ approach to what can actually be realised.

Even within the power generation sector, a relatively straightforward area compared with heat and transport energy, the ability to achieve large percentages of electricity supply from ‘intermittent’ renewable energy resources is technically challenging in both engineering and policy terms.

As a starting point towards a successful outcome for Scotland’s renewable energy exploitation project, we make the following recommendations:

  1. The Scottish government should, as a matter of absolute priority, establish, agree and publish the current position in TWh/y of the gross energy consumption in Scotland in the three component fields of heat, transport and electricity. It should then determine its targets for 2020 (on SMART principles) in the same three fields. The inter-relationship between these three fields must be clearly understood and their relative positions in the ‘energy mix’ defined and made publicly available. Only clearly-defined targets can be intentionally achieved.
  2. If the present target of 100% electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020 is to be maintained, then the Scottish government should clearly state its engineering-based methodology for achieving this ambitious target without delay. Until a clear methodology exists, the targets are only an aspiration. In this regard the government should consult, without delay, with competent and independent engineering professionals who have knowledge and experience of the actual delivery of major power projects, to establish what level of electricity generation from renewable energy sources can realistically be built in Scotland and in what time period. This will involve determining the skill levels, manufacturing capability and planning obstacles, as well as the numerous outstanding technology and infrastructure issues that still need to be resolved.
  3. The Scottish government should prioritise the sourcing of secure, reliable energy supplies for the nation’s electricity, heat and transport requirements, while effectively tackling the growing issue of fuel poverty. The latter must be addressed within Scottish energy policy to ensure that an increasing number of people are not tipped into fuel poverty simply because of the increased cost of providing renewables-based energy; such an outcome would create an unsustainable position for the Scottish people.

Related links

Read the Institution News article:
Scottish renewables targets could worsen fuel poverty, say engineers


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