'Support needed' to meet green energy targets

wind farm Image copyright PA

A key target for generating green energy in Scotland will be missed unless there is more support for wind power, according to industry leaders.

The Scottish government wants the equivalent of 100% of energy demand to come from renewable sources by 2020.

But industry body Scottish Renewables predicted only 87% would be achieved without further investment.

The Scottish government said its targets were ambitious and criticised UK ministers for creating uncertainty.

The non-binding target for the equivalent of 100% of Scotland's electricity demand to come from environmentally friendly sources was announced by former first minister Alex Salmond in 2011.

Long-term contract

Research by Scottish Renewables found the country is on course to generate 33,122 Gigawatt (GWh) hours from sources such as wind power, biomass and hydro electricity by 2020.

But it said demand was likely to be 38,256 GWh.

Scottish Renewables said proposed offshore and onshore wind projects could meet the demand, but added these could only go ahead with a long-term contract for their power.

Chief executive Niall Stuart said: "The 100% target has provided a powerful focus for government, industry and supporting bodies like Highland and Island Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise, and really put Scotland's renewable energy industry on the map.

Image copyright PA

"However, current projections show that we're not going to meet it unless we get more projects going ahead between now and 2020.

"There are consented schemes onshore and offshore that could get us there, but they can only go ahead if they are allocated a long-term contract for their power.

"The industry had expected an auction round for contracts this autumn, but UK ministers postponed that and we are still unsure if and when that will go ahead - which is inevitably impacting on investor confidence across the industry."

Mr Stuart said if the process was not under way by next spring "the delay could fatally undermine the timeline for the projects on Scotland's main island groups, ending prospects for major developments on the Western Isles and Shetland".

'Huge uncertainty'

He added: "It would also raise serious questions about whether the proposed offshore wind projects can make the 2020 deadline.

"Essentially it is this simple - if we get an allocation round next spring and enough Scottish projects are successful we can still hit the target."

Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing said: "Recent announcements by the UK government represent an attack on the renewables sector, creating huge uncertainty for investors, developers and communities and undermining Scotland's ability to fulfil its renewable energy potential.

"Our renewables targets are ambitious and challenging and I am pleased we have seen almost half of our electricity demand coming from renewable sources in 2014.

"However, I share Scottish Renewables' concerns that the damaging and premature cuts to support for renewable energy being driven through by the UK government will hamper future progress."

Fuel bills

Lang Banks, director of campaign group WWF Scotland, said reducing energy demand would be key to meeting the target, and called on all political parties to explain how they would achieve this.

He said: "This report makes it clear that the renewables industry urgently needs certainty from the UK government about future funding if it's to continue to thrive, create jobs and cut emissions in Scotland.

"However, the good news is that there's more than enough renewables projects in the pipeline to hit our 2020 target if funding is secured.

"Making progress on reducing our demand for power would also help to bring the target within reach, while cutting fuel bills for consumers at the same time."

A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: "Our priority is providing secure, affordable and reliable energy for hardworking families and businesses.

"Renewables make up around 25% of our electricity generation and we are on track to meet our ambition for 2020. We continue to make progress to meet our overall renewable energy target."

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