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How Scotland’s lead in renewable energy is paving the way

ByDean Adams

Dec 9, 2018

After the recent UN climate report, people around the world have been scrambling to take action and do their part in reversing the damage.

To many, this report simply confirmed what they already knew, but others are just coming around to the idea that we are fast approaching a tipping point, one that will likely be irreversible. From a global standpoint, Scotland stands out as something of a beacon of hope for what sustainable energy can accomplish. Perhaps other, larger nations should be looking to Scotland as an example of responsible energy production in the world we live in today. 

Based on Environmental Performance Index (EPI) rankings, the UK ranks somewhere in the top 10 nations for sustainability in the world, sitting at number six in the 2018 rankings. There is no EPI calculated for Scotland, only for the UK as a whole, but there are indicators that Scotland is likely outperforming the rest of the UK in its sustainability mission. For example, the chart shows data from the Scottish Government indicating that it is well ahead of its goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 42 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050. The 42 per cent goal was already reached in 2014, and if the emissions continue to decrease along its current trend, Scotland could reach its 80 per cent reduction goal far earlier than 2050. 

Companies like Scottish Power are another indication of Scotland moving in the right direction. The Independent reports that “Scottish Power has become the first major UK energy firm to completely drop fossil fuels in favour of wind power.” 

Scottish Power is not the only firm moving toward wind energy. In fact, wind energy is the leading renewable energy source in Scotland. As Scotland has increased its total capacity of renewable energy from roughly 3,300 MW in 2008 to over 10,400 MW in 2018, roughly 75 per cent of that capacity has been wind energy. 

The next largest sector after wind energy is hydroelectric energy. Finally, a reason to be appreciative of all the wind and rain in Scotland. In fact, the wind and rain have allowed Scotland to get to a point where it produces 68 per cent of Scotland’s total electricity usage.

However, Scotland is going to need to continue growing its sustainable development sector at an ever-increasing rate to keep up with the growing energy demands. As with anything else, the best way to ensure the growth of the sustainability sector is to ensure its economic viability. According to the Office of National Statistics, the sustainability sector resulted in 16,000 full-time jobs in Scotland in 2016. There are very promising prospects for growth in this sector, as the potential for renewable energy extends offshore. Tidal energy is earning a lot of attention from renewable resource investors, and Scotland has prime real estate for the utilisation of this resource.

According to RenewableUK, half of the capacity for tidal energy in Europe is located off UK coasts, providing a potential 14,000 additional jobs to the sustainability sector. Many analysts view tidal energy as the future of the renewable energy field, as it has the potential to produce massive outputs of power without impacting the physical environment in the way a hydroelectric dam or even a wind turbine might. There are, however, concerns with its impact on fish and marine mammals swimming into the underwater turbines. Systems are being developed to prevent this, but they are still largely imperfect.

Companies are beginning to rush to the tidal industry, recognising its potential. The Herald reports that Orbital Marine Power has started a seven million pound crowdfunding process to build a new tidal plant off the coast of Orkney. This could be a very important step for the future development of tidal energy along the Scottish and UK coasts. 

The UN climate report has sparked a panic in the minds of many people, yet some solace can be taken in the fact that Scotland is making massive strides toward a renewable future, which paves the way for what the future of sustainable energy could look like across Europe and the rest of the world. 


Image: rachelalienergy via Pixabay

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