Should there be a moratorium on offshore wind?
Speaking in Edinburgh yesterday UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey said the future of Scottish renewables “is more secure with Scotland as part of the United Kingdom”.
His contention is that if Scotland became independent it would be “treated by the UK as just one of a number of countries it could buy renewables from”.
Davey went on to say: “We are pursuing a number of interconnection projects with our European neighbours, including Norway and Ireland. For an independent Scotland, this would potentially represent serious competition. If the UK were to look beyond its borders for renewable energy, we would need to consider which sources provide the cheapest and most reliable options for our people.”
Scotland has been a major exporter of electricity to England for decades. This has been done via 2,200MW capacity interconnectors linking the Scottish Grid to the English Grid which are being upgraded to 3,300MW. Plans are also in place to increase the interconnector capacity to 7,000MW by 2021. There is every likelihood that the rUK would find it economic to purchase some of Scotland’s excess capacity compared to the cost of power imported through expensive sub-sea HVDC interconnectors. However, this electricity must be competitive, and while onshore wind is becoming very competitive onshore wind still looks prohibitively expensive.
Meanwhile, the think tank ‘Options for Scotland’, set up by former SNP leader Gordon Wilson, has published a report looking into an independent Scotland’s energy options - and one point among its key recommendations chimes with Davey’s remarks. The report contends that offshore wind is an expensive and unnecessary source of power for an independent Scotland that already has substantial overcapacity, and that under independence there would be no guaranteed export market for such expensive power.
Both the anti-wind brigade and the unionist media have – naturally – seized on this report as a stick to beat the Scottish government without having read it fully. While realising that we will have legally binding emissions targets to meet, the report suggests that the ’100% from renewables’ target may be impractical in the immediate future following independence but that:
“If Scotland does embark on a policy of aiming for lowest cost electricity, and has to produce 40% of its electricity from renewable sources, the obvious move is to concentrate on onshore wind.”
Key recommendations of the Electricity Generation Options for an Independent Scotland report are:
- More State involvement in planning and executing future electricity generation, including a possible state-owned generating company.
- Scale back the 100% by 2020 target on carbon emissions and concentrate on lowest cost electricity, with production for export considered only when a profitable market beneficial to the Scottish consumer exists.
- Use the Crown Estate to control development and have a moratorium on new offshore wind.
- Return ownership and control of the Scottish grid to Scotland.
- Abandon the FiT scheme as non-economic.
- On the basis of overcapacity, suspend any consideration of nuclear.
- Implement research and commissioning of carbon storage (CCS)
- Increase investment in research and industrial development of potential wave and tidal flow marine energy.
- Expand conventional hydro under a state company with an option to acquire privatised hydro stations on payment of reasonable compensation, given exploitation of unjustified subsidies.
It will be interesting to see how the Scottish government respond to this report. Hopefully it will form a basis for constructive discussion rather than being used as nothing more than casual ammunition in the referendum debate.
Norwegian state involvement could jeapordise NorthConnect project
It seems that a proposal being put forward in Oslo to put the state-controlled grid operator Statnett in charge of all Norwegian interconnector projects could potentially stall or finish off the development of a North Sea HVDC interconnector between Scotland and Norway.
While Statnett currently has no interest in NorthConnect it does have a stake in other interconnector projects, including the North Sea Network (NSN) joint venture with National Grid. This project proposed to build an interconnector line between Northumberland and Western Norway, which would bypass Scotland and could damage the country’s hopes of being a major renewable energy exporter in the future.
This warning was given by Ødd Oygarden, who is the chairman of NorthConnect, the consortium behind the project. Oygarden said: “We will have to see what will happen with the Norwegian government’s proposition. If it goes ahead – You can take it that [cancelling the NorthConnect project] might be a possible development. The government suggesting that there should be a near-monopolistic situation with interconnectors is not what we want as a background for reaching agreements.”
This is the second bit of bad news for the project this month after it emerged that SSE, a major partner with a 25% in the consortium, was withdrawing to concentrate on other business. It cited a ‘lack of clarity on the regulatory regime around interconnectors’ for its decision to withdraw. The NOrwegian government has done little to promote such clarity with its somewhat opaque statement that “Grid investments shall be conducted if they are socio-economically profitable. This includes new interconnectors.”
Study by RGU says Scotland should be a model for UK government
Scotland’s delivery of devolution and renewable energy development should be a model for other UK Governments to follow, according to a recent study by Robert Gordon University (RGU).
The newly published study has shown that Scotland leads the way in renewables deployment across the UK and that independence is a driving force in the growth of the renewables sector.
The study is the findings of a two-year research project undertaken by RGU, Cardiff University, Queen’s University Belfast and Birmingham University. They examined how far the devolved Governments in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have pursued different strategies for renewable energy, made different use of the policy instruments and whether they have had any effect on the rates and direction of renewables deployment.
The report – entitled Promoting Renewable Energy in the UK: What difference has devolution made? – identified the role of the Scottish Government in ensuring the establishment of commercialisation and testing facilities in Scotland for renewables.
The only Scottish university involved in the collaborative project, RGU, recently held a seminar to critically assess how Scotland had performed in relation to renewables deployment compared to the other UK administrations.
The seminar was led by RGU’s Professor Peter Strachan who is the Strategy and Policy Group Lead within the Department of Management and a senior member of the Business & Enterprise research group within the Institute for Management Governance and Society (IMaGeS) and has published several books and journal articles on his expert subject of energy policy and international wind power deployment.
The seminar addressed the question: To what extent has devolution been a boon for renewable energy, hindrance or indeed has it been irrelevant?
Presentations were made by Professor Strachan and other leading experts from academia, business and local government. They considered how the powers available to Scotland have intersected with the political and policy strategies deployed the institutional inheritances and the way in which successive Scottish Government’s have managed the interactions with Westminster, developers and wider civil society.
The seminar concluded that Scotland is leading the way and devolution has coincided with the deployment of large amounts of installed renewables capacity across the UK. Compared to the other devolved administrations unique political and institutional conditions have enabled Scotland to become the leading player in the renewables sector. In particular, Scotland has offered the long term and consistent political and business support, with renewables seen as an important ‘motor’ for economic growth. The Scottish Government’s anti-nuclear ‘new’ build stance has also played a critical role.
Professor Strachan revealed that much of the growth has come from onshore wind power, which grew ten-fold from 308MW in 2003 to 3016MW by 2011, but this growth has not come without its own challenges in the planning and consenting environment. He questioned if the UK Government was doing enough to promote community owned renewables and outlined that Scotland had been the only devolved administration to set a target of 500MW of installed renewables energy capacity.
Professor Strachan commented: “Unlike England and the other devolved administrations, Scotland now has set a target of 500MW of community owned renewables and as I outlined in my submission to the Scottish Government Inquiry into the achievement of their 2020 renewables targets, a higher target should now be set to ensure there is stronger social engagement in the sustainable energy transition.
“Scotland has made much progress but it can also look to other renewable energy mentors – in particular Denmark and Germany – and much still can be learned from them – particularly the role feed-in tariffs have played in the massive expansion of renewables in these countries.”
The seminar was the first in a series of dissemination events to support the launch of the report. Others have been held in Northern Ireland and Wales.
The Energy Minister for Scotland Fergus Ewing said: “This underlines the importance of the flexibility which Scotland has over energy policy and the effective use to which that flexibility has been put since devolution.
“We have astounding green energy potential and vast natural resources with about a quarter of Europe’s wind and tidal energy and 10% of its wave power. Windfarms and other forms of clean energy create opportunities for communities across Scotland, enhance energy security and are already delivering jobs and investment and the Scottish Government is determined to ensure communities all over Scotland reap the benefit from renewable energy.”
Running from January 2011 to January 2013, the report drew on more than 80 interviews with senior figures in government, politicians and officers, energy companies and trade associations, and non-governmental organisations, supported by the analysis of policy and planning documents.
Prof Strachan added: “Scotland has shown the high level of cohesion between top-level politicians, officers and business required to make the UK energy pathway work. Such cohesion around the direction of renewable energy development has been harder to find in the rest of the UK, making progress more uncertain.”
Carbon from power generation to fall by four fifths by 2030
Scotland has set a target to cut carbon emissions from electricity generation by more than four-fifths by 2030, underlining the huge market for offshore wind beyond 2020.
First Minister Alex Salmond revealed the new target in an address this morning at the Scottish Renewables/Scottish Enterprise Offshore Wind & Supply Chain Conference, Aberdeen.
In 2010 emissions from electricity grid activity in Scotland were estimated to amount to 347 grams of carbon dioxide per Kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity generated.
A target of 50gCO2/kWh by 2030 – in line with independent advice from the UK Committee on Climate Change – is contained within Scotland’s revised Offshore Wind Route Map, launched today, and also in the Scottish Government’s draft second report on proposals and polices (RPP2) to meet overall emissions targets, being published at Holyrood this afternoon.
The UK Government has resisted industry and Scottish Government calls to use its Energy Bill, currently proceeding through Westminster, to set a decarbonisation target for the power sector now – instead, legislating for a decision on whether to set such a target to be made in 2016 at the earliest (i.e., after the next UK election).
Mr Salmond said: “We face a global imperative to tackle climate change and how we power our economies is a key part of that. Offshore wind has a strong, vibrant future, with plans to install up to 10 GW of capacity in Scottish waters over the next decade. More sites are being scoped for deployment in the 2020s – alongside commercial wave and tidal generation – as grid and interconnection upgrades and storage are further developed.
The First Minister also announced the signing of new Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) between Highland & Islands Enterprise (HIE) and four key ports in the region to support the development of the offshore wind sector. The partnership aims to help the ports attract a potential £100m of investment to the Highlands. The four joint-working agreements with Port of Ardersier, Kishorn Port Limited and Cromarty Firth Port Authority and Global Energy Nigg will support owners and operators to secure consents, market opportunities, attract investments and enable further development.
Dan Finch, UK Managing Director of EDP Renovaveis and co-chair of Scotland’s Offshore Wind Industry Group (OWIG), said: “To build a long-term sustainable industry and to insulate consumers from rising fossil fuel costs, we need a strong political commitment to renewables. Setting decarbonisation targets is a key part of delivering the confidence necessary for investment.”
He said: “We are working hard with our enterprise agencies both to secure overseas investment into our world-leading renewable energy industry and to support Scottish businesses to seize the huge opportunities available, working in partnership with inward investors and the rest of the supply chain to create jobs and help re-industrialise communities right across Scotland. These ports are ideally-positioned to become key hubs for the deployment of offshore wind, wave and tidal energy – across manufacturing, assembly, operations and maintenance – and the new Memorandums of Understanding with Highlands & Islands Enterprise underpin the importance that we attach to ensuring that all of Scotland wins from the renewables revolution.”
HIE Chief Executive Alex Paterson added:
“The offshore wind supply chain is showing strong interest in Scottish ports and harbours, and these official agreements give the market the strongest possible statement that the ports in the Highlands and Islands are open for renewables business. HIE is fully committed to working with ports across the region to ensure that they are ready to support manufacture, fabrication, assembly, deployment and operational support for the Scottish, UK and European offshore wind market.”
By Bob Duncan
The findings of a two-year research project undertaken by; Cardiff University, Queen’s University Belfast, Robert Gordon University, the University of Aberdeen and Birmingham University, also indicates that independence is a driving force in the renewables industry growth.
The study examined how far the devolved governments in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have pursued different strategies for renewable energy, made different use of the policy instruments available to them, and whether they have had any effect on the rates and direction of renewable energy development.
The report – Promoting Renewable Energy in the UK: what difference has devolution made? – identified the role of the Scottish government in ensuring the establishment of commercialisation and testing facilities in Scotland for renewable energy, compared to other parts of the UK.
Running from January 2011 to January 2013, it drew on more than 80 interviews with senior figures in government (at all levels), politicians and officers, energy companies and trade associations, and non-governmental organisations, supported by the analysis of policy and planning documents.
The report concluded that Scotland could be considered a leader in renewable energy development within the UK.
“… an alternative reading of the effects of devolution on renewable energy is that Scotland’s experience shows us the conditions that are required for the UK renewable energy pathway to work successfully: significant elite cohesion around the agenda and access to a wider pool of supportive resources. That there is less sign of elite cohesion around the expansion of renewables in Westminster, Cardiff or Belfast qualifies the scope for any easy ‘borrowing’ of policy lessons from Scotland.”
In a key statement, Cardiff University concluded: “The centrality of energy issues to the Scottish National Party and its independence agenda is a key factor,”
Dr Richard Cowell, Cardiff University’s School of Planning and Geography, said:
“We can point to a range of actions by the devolved governments – especially Scotland – that have shown significant support to renewable energy in the UK.”
The project team identified a number of areas in which devolved governments have been responsible for actions, policy innovations or styles of working which have proven helpful to the delivery of renewable energy in the UK.
The study highlighted previous concerns over the UK government’s reliance on conventional power generation which made renewable investment “problematic” and questioned whether the UK could meet the EU directive of 30% of electricity demand from renewables.
They concluded that the Scottish experience should act as a model for the rest of the UK. The following were their conclusions in respect to Scotland and The SNP:
- The Scottish Government has led in using its powers to differentiate ROC levels to give greater support to wave and tidal power;
- The Scottish Government has devoted much greater resources relative to its population on direct funding of facilities and research and demonstration for offshore wind and wave and tidal stream energy technologies than is being done in the rest of the UK;
- The Scottish Government’s control over major energy generation and grid consents is widely seen as advantageous as a means of exercising closer control over delivery, but its decision not to follow Westminster in creating new consent procedures may have had some short-term advantages;
- The delivery of new grid infrastructure, to enable the timely exploitation of renewable resources in remote locations, remains problematic across the UK. The role of devolved governments is mostly in the realm of ‘softer’ actions, such as signifying commitment to such investments, or undertaking a mediating role between stakeholders within route corridors.
- Time is itself a factor. Among the devolved governments, political commitment to large-scale renewable energy development is longest standing in Scotland, being evident in the 1999 elections, allowing debates about delivery to develop sooner than in Northern Ireland and Wales.
- A significant dimension of this is the centrality of energy issues to the Scottish National Party and its independence agenda, but so too is cross-party support, the galvanising of a wider but still compact policy network including major energy businesses, and a persistent framing of renewable energy as a national economic agenda.
The report also highlighted the importance of reform of the grid charging system, which sees Scottish generators having to pay in order to connect to the grid whereas generators south of the border received a subsidy.
The study said that lower rates imposed on Scottish generators would make renewable energy schemes more economic. In 2012, after pressure from the Scottish government, the Office of Gas and Electricity Management (OFGEM) announced proposals for a reform of the grid transmission charge system – although the plans do not include changes to charges in the Scottish islands which have been described as “prohibitive”.
Responding to the study, Chic Brodie MSP, a member of the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee, said:
“The findings of this report are significant, not only in that they show how devolution has allowed Scotland to utilise her own vast natural resources but also how the campaign towards independence is a driving force in the industry’s growth.
“The Scottish Government is already committed to producing the equivalent of 100% of our electricity needs from renewables by 2020, and this report demonstrates that this is a much more sensible approach than the UK government’s “Dash for Gas” which will end up costing the consumer six times as much.
“The report blows out of the water the ridiculous claims of the No campaign that energy bills will be more expensive in an independent Scotland. A Scotland with clean green energy will have lower bills than the rest of the UK, who seem determined to go down the route of more gas stations and expensive nuclear power.
“An over-reliance on gas would also mean the rest of the UK could not meet their EU climate change commitments.
“An independent Scotland will be a reliable supplier of green energy that will be a huge boost to Scotland – but also the best and most reliable source for the rest of the UK to access green power and ensure that they meet their international commitments.
“The notion that the rest of the UK will be so upset by Scottish independence that they will turn to potentially unstable sources of energy flies in the face of all reason.
“All nations will act in their own best interests and that means trading with energy-rich Scotland in energy.”
This article was originally published here by Newsnet Scotland and is reproduced by permission
Newsnet Scotland was launched on 12th March 2010 by unpaid volunteers from Greenock. The site was set up in order to address what was perceived as be an imbalance in the reporting of Scottish News and Current Affairs. It is a not for profit organisation supporting major constitutional change for Scotland whether it be full fiscal autonomy, Devolution-Max or full independence.