Renewables: a lesson from the Scottish

Renewables: a lesson from the Scottish

Emilio Fabio Torsello
Scotland could become the first country in Europe to produce 50% of the energy required to cover its entire energy demand from renewable sources. This has been stated by the Energy in Scotland 2016 report, although since 2013 the country has been in contention to become the first to produce 100% of its energy from such renewable sources by 2020.

It must certainly be said that Scotland has a population of just under 6 million people (as in the American State of Arizona) with an energy need different from that of far more populated countries, but its example can surely act as a guiding standard for the entire continent.

100% renewable energy by 2020

The percentage of clean energy produced in Scotland from renewable sources in fact increased over just a few years from 24% in 2010 to 40% in 2013, to reach - as anticipated for 2016 - 50%. All this while just 3 years ago Arizona could boast just 9% of energy produced from renewable sources. Also, while Arizona - to keep the comparison - aims at a percentage of 15% clean energy by 2025, Scotland is planning to reach 100% 5 years earlier: by 2020.

Energy from the sea: turbines that exploit the currents

Britain is still planning to build a plant that exploits the seas by producing energy, along Pentland Firth, in the norther part of country. When it becomes operational, the new facility will produce up to 400 MW thanks to underwater currents.

In the first phase, the works are to include the installation - at a depth of 40 meters - of 4-30-meter high turbines which will have an offshore production of 1.5 MW. At the same time, onshore facilities will also be built. In particular, the construction of an onshore park is planned capable of converting energy to match that of the regional electricity network. The first 4 turbines will be in operation at the end of 2016, but within a short amount of time their numbers will increase to 61, to cover the energy requirements of 42,000 homes. The entire plant should provide energy to 175,000 families.

From onshore to offshore hydropower: forming networks between countries and creating jobs

“Most European countries have a population similar to that of Scotland, with a similar mix between cities and rural areas” explains Lang Banks, director of WWF, Scotland. “Our country has literally been blessed with a precious mix of natural resources, enabling us to take advantage of various energy options. Hydroelectric power was among the first renewable sources we considered, although it has now been overtaken by the exploitation of wind, especially onshore. In the near future, I hope we will be able to make greater use of the potential of wind, even offshore”. 

Renewables in Scotland - emphasizes Banks - currently involves over 20,000 jobs. All within a virtuous context in which we could see “interconnections between countries such that, for instance, Scotland and Denmark could place their surplus energy obtained from wind into the grid, Norway its surplus from hydroelectric power, and Spain and Germany from solar power”.

The potential of biomass and marine energy

The production capacity of renewables also determines an effective increase in the production of electricity. This is confirmed by a report made by Scottish Renewables, which indicates an output that has more than doubled: from 8.215 GWh in 2007 to 18.962 GWh in 2014. While onshore wind power installations generated almost 2/3 of all renewable energy in Scotland in 2014, hydropower accounted for 1/4. However, the potential for growth - confirms the report - is currently also in biomass and marine energy.

“A very important lesson that comes from the renewables revolution in Scotland,” concludes Banks, “is certainly the support from politics, which has very clear targets regarding renewables, next to a support capable of encouraging long-term investments”.