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Scottish renewables pledge ‘technically achievable’, says report

Scotland’s ambitious target of generating 100 per cent of its electricity from renewable-energy sources by 2020 is “technically achievable”, a government statement has said.

The Electricity Generation Policy Statement, published on 6 March, says renewable-energy generation will be backed up by thermal generation of fossil fuel as well as carbon capture and storage. Nuclear energy will be phased out over time with no new build, it also confirms.

The Scottish government’s targets, which also include generating 11 per cent of heat from renewable sources by 2020, have been widely criticised. A damning report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers published in November last year said there is no engineering analysis behind the policy.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee has launched an inquiry into the matter, looking at issues such as whether technology is ready to meet the targets and whether universities and research institutes are fully aware of the need for technological development.

However, the statement says that relevant technologies can be developed successfully and will be “much more than enough to meet domestic demand for electricity”.

Particularly important is CCS technology, in which, the government argues, Scotland has “world-leading” R&D expertise.

“Successful demonstration of CCS in Scotland over the next decade could create up to 5,000 jobs and be worth £3.5bn to the Scottish economy”, the statement suggests, adding that there are already well-developed proposals for a CCS demonstration in Peterhead.

In addition, it says, Scotland’s offshore CO2 storage capacity is the largest in the EU—greater than that of Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands combined.

“The Scottish Government has never intended to support unabated new coal plants in Scotland, as this would be wholly inconsistent with our climate change objectives,” reads the statement. “We have made it absolutely clear that any new power station in Scotland must be fitted with a minimum CCS on 300 MWe of its generation from day one of operation. CCS can potentially reduce emissions from fossil fuel power stations by up to 90 per cent.”

However, the government acknowledges that the target will be challenging and requires a “sustained annual renewable deployment rate of more than twice that ever experienced in Scotland”. Investment in large-scale schemes—particularly in offshore wind—will therefore be necessary, it adds.

In addition, it says, extra spending on innovation and technology may be required for wind, wave and tidal-power.

“We know there is doubt and scepticism about our 100 per cent renewables target, and the financial and engineering challenges required to meet it,” said Scotland’s energy minister Fergus Ewing, in a statement. “We know our target is technically achievable. Scotland already leads the world in renewable energy, and we have the natural resources and the expertise to achieve so much more.”