Scotland is at a turning point for onshore wind
18th November 2019 | Commercial Energy
Onshore wind remains pivotal to a net zero future. We cannot afford to forget about it, writes Kevin Cannon, managing associate at law firm Addleshaw Goddard.
Glasgow was selected in September to host the 26th Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Scotland has long been the UK’s strongest proof that renewable energy can transform a nation’s reliance on carbon-heavy electricity and oil and gas production in a relatively short space of time, providing the right framework and tools are in place to support it.
Even in the oil and gas heartland of Aberdeen, great strides are being made to decommission and invest in new technologies to reduce negative environmental impacts, and to ensure the country remains competitive on the international stage, but Scotland’s greatest success story is undoubtedly the widespread adoption of both offshore and onshore wind power.
Scotland generated almost twice the entire country’s domestic power requirements in the first half of this year from wind, powering homes from the Outer Hebrides right through to the south of England, something that has been achieved in just over a decade. Total installed capacity of renewable electricity in Scotland has grown from 3.353 megawatts in 2008 to 11, 036 MW last year, with onshore wind currently accounting for 71 per cent of total capacity.
Public backing for onshore wind has reached an all-time high – 79 per cent according to new figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – and industry is slowly starting to take note. Last year, Scottish Power became the first major UK energy firm to drop fossil fuels completely in favour of wind power, after selling its remaining gas and hydro stations to Drax in a deal worth £702 million.
Scotland’s current capacity, paired with growing public demand, has the power to shape the future of electricity generation but there remain challenges to the sector’s continued expansion. The fact that the other Big Six companies haven’t yet followed suit may indicate a few of these challenges, with a dip in the number of planning applications to create further wind power sites stunting the sector’s growth, and the cost to produce and receive renewable electricity, impacting both industry and consumers.
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