Approach the Renewable Energy Sector in Scotland with Cautious Optimism
It wasn’t long ago that the words “Caution,” “Scotland” and “Renewable Energy” all showed up together—the sector’s future looked unclear with the looming independence vote. Now, the sector is the center of attention once again, but for a more positive reason.
According to independent trade body Scottish Renewables, for the first half of 2014, renewable energy was Scotland’s largest source of power.
“Records from the first half of 2014, the most recent period for which data is available, show renewables generated 32% more electricity than any other single source of power in Scotland,” the group wrote in a press release. “In total, the renewables sector generated a record 10.3TWh (terawatt-hours), compared to 7.8TWh2 from nuclear generation—previously Scotland’s main source of electricity. The figures also show that coal and gas-fired electricity generation produced 5.6TWh and 1.4TWh respectively over the same six-month period.”
Naturally, this was met with high praise.
“The announcement that renewables have become Scotland’s main source of electricity is historic news for our country, and shows the investment made in the sector is helping to deliver more power than ever before to our homes and businesses,” Niall Stuart, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, said.
CleanTechnica’s Joshua S. Hill also noted that October was a “bumper month” for Scotland’s wind sector, which generated more than enough electricity to meet residential needs throughout the country.
If this wasn’t enough good news, the Scottish government just approved £380,000 in funding for new projects through the Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) Local Energy Challenge Fund. The funding is designed for those with innovative new ideas to them off the ground and make them a reality for the project’s respective communities.
“We have an ambition to put communities at the heart of local energy systems," Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said. "There are huge benefits to local energy ownership, like supporting the needs of the community for decades to come, whilst creating and securing jobs, underpinning regeneration and funding energy efficiency improvements for hundreds of local people."
Now, you might be asking at this point, where is the ‘cautious?’ This sounds like just ‘optimism.’
True, there is a lot to be optimisitic about here. The one point of contention comes from Colin McInnes and Paul Younger at the University of Glasgow. They caution that complete reliance on renewable energy could prove costly, due to the intermittence of its availability.
“As Scotland's output of intermittent renewable energy grows, so will the need for responsive gas plants that can deliver power as and when required,” they wrote for Herald Scotland. “It is therefore surprising that many of those most enthused with renewable energy are also aghast at the prospect of shale gas exploration in Scotland. Intermittent renewable energy is enabled by gas turbines, and indeed locks in the use of methane to fuel them well into the future.”
The pair noted that the decline of nuclear in Scotland should be given much more attention, as they believe the generating capacity from those plants will be replaced with fossil fuels.
Admittedly, this is a relatively unlikely scenario, seeing as how successful renewable have been in Scotland, but it’s still important to not put all your eggs in one basket.
It’s safe to celebrate Scotland’s renewable energy sector, but maybe keep it to a small party rather than a Gatsby-style event.
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.