Scotland has declared an early success in its battle to meet ambitious green energy targets, with renewable power hitting the equivalent of almost half of electricity demand north of the border.
The Scottish government had set an interim target of 50 per cent of gross consumption of electricity to come from renewables by 2015, with the proportion intended to hit 100 per cent by 2020.
New data showed renewable electricity generation in Scotland in 2014 was equivalent to 49.7 per cent of Scottish demand, up more than 5 percentage points from 2013, the Scottish governmentsaid.
“This means that the 2015 50 per cent renewable electricity target has almost been met one year ahead of schedule,” it said.
The new data underscores the rapidly increasing importance of Scottish renewables, which are dominated by onshore wind and long-established hydro schemes.
However, the sector faces considerable uncertainty amid fading enthusiasm from the UK Conservative government for promoting renewable energy.
“While we are now almost half way to our 2020 goal of producing the equivalent of 100 per cent of our electricity from renewables, the second half of the target is going to be much harder to achieve than the first,” said Joss Blamire, senior policy manager at industry lobby Scottish Renewables.
As well as cuts to UK subsidies, the strongly pro-renewable Scottish National party government also faces resistance at home from groups that argue planning consent is being given too easily to often large and visually intrusive wind farms set among some of the nation’s finest scenery.
An Edinburgh court this month ruled that the Scottish government’s decision to approve a 67-turbine wind farm near the Highland town of Fort Augustus was “in breach of environmental obligations”. Ministers and utility SSE plan to appeal.
Fergus Ewing, Scotland’s energy minister, said confirmation of the rapid growth of renewable energy vindicated the nation’s commitment to early adoption.
“Despite damaging policy changes from the UK government, we will continue to harness — and bolster — Scotland’s renewables potential, both in generation and infrastructure,” Mr Ewing said.
Scotland’s success in embracing renewables has been aided by access to large areas of windy but economically marginal terrain and to a UK-wide power grid that helps to smooth out fluctuations in output.
In 2014, renewables accounted for a record 38 per cent of electricity generated in Scotland, for the first time putting it ahead of both nuclear plants, which produced one-third of output, and fossil fuels, which accounted for 28 per cent.
Growth in capacity continues to grow, with 7,504MW of installed renewable capacity in Scotland by the end of the third quarter of 2015, up 4.6 per cent year-on-year.
Scotland is a net exporter of electricity, with generation exceeding demand by 24 per cent in 2014.
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