Energy Shift Scotland

_77110583_turbineBy Mike Small

Renewable energy has overtaken nuclear to become the largest source of electricity in Scotland. Niall Stuart, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, described it as: “historic news for our country.”

It’s a milestone that charts the epoch-making choices ahead of us, contrasting sharply against the chaos and carnage of chemical giant INEOS’s shale gas experiment and the UK’s discredited nuclear programme.

Records just released from the Department for Energy and Climate Change from the first half of 2014, show renewables generated 32% more electricity than any other single source of power in Scotland. In total, the renewables sector generated a record 10.3TWh (terawatt-hours)1, compared to 7.8TWh2 from nuclear generation – previously Scotland’s main source of electricity. Renewables also now eclipse coal and gas-fired electricity in generation whilst also contributing hugely to the green economy. It’s estimated that marine energy alone may be worth £50bn by 2050.

Lang Banks from WWF Scotland hailed the news saying:

“Renewables overtaking nuclear power to become the largest source of electricity is certainly historic, and represents a major step on the way to Scotland becoming a 100 per cent renewable nation. Last month, while nuclear reactors were forced to shut because of cracks, Scotland’s renewables were quietly and cleanly helping to keep the lights on in homes across the country. Wind turbines in Scotland alone generated enough electricity to supply three millions homes in the UK – equivalent to 126 per cent of the electricity needs of every home north of the border. Put simply, renewables work and are helping to cut climate change emissions and create jobs in Scotland.”

There’s now a stark choice: an open door to a low-carbon future with green jobs, energy security and a clean energy source without waste disposal or supply issues, or investing in fossil fuels to create profits for polluting companies that extract resource at every level. Now would be the time to combine this output with a decrease in demand by investing properly in insulation, smart technology and a cultural shift to a different expectation around energy use. Joined-up thinking by Nicola Sturgeon’s government would see that ending fuel poverty and tackling climate change have the same solution.

Now decentralised and community owned renewables are the next part of the shift to a viable energy system or Scotland, one that puts us in charge of our energy economy as well as our ecological future. But this is also a remarkable turning point given the onslaught of anti-renewable propaganda in the press and the vested interests of the nuclear industry in government. But in order to protect and make proper use of our natural renewable resources – and to protect against the breakthrough being undermined by nuclear waste and fracking – we need the transfer of full powers of energy policy to be transferred to Scotland from Westminster.

While this announcement is a major milestone, it’s not enough on its own.

As Niall Stuart, from Scottish Renewables, has said we are still in the early stages of developing the full potential of renewable energy. Offshore wind and marine energy in particular are still in the early stages of development. Mr Stuart said:

“Every unit of power generated from renewables means less carbon emitted from the burning of fossil fuels, decreases our reliance on imported energy and supports jobs and investment in communities across Scotland. Offshore wind and marine energy are still in the early stages of development but could make a big contribution to our future energy needs if they get the right support from government. That support includes the delivery of grid connections to the islands, home to the UK’s very best wind, wave and tidal sites.”

The announcement is likely to further embarrass the beleaguered nuclear industry, where Scottish taxpayers will be picking up a portion of the “astonishing” £70 billion decontamination costs for Sellafield as well as witnessing a catalogue of incidents across the country in recent months including: two serious breakdowns at Hunterston nuclear power station in North Ayrshire, a ship carrying radioactive waste catching fire and going adrift in the Moray Firth,  a fire at the Dounreay nuclear complex in Caithness and excess emissions of radioactive tritium gas coming under investigation at Chapelcross in Dumfries and Galloway.



Categories: Environmental Justice

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19 replies

  1. “32% more” but no simple breakdown, what is the total percentage for renewables, nuclear, fossil?

  2. “32% more” but no simple breakdown, what is the total percentage for renewables, nuclear, fossil?

  3. Hurrah for joined-up thinking! Buccleuch plc,as major landowners here in D&G, promoting coalbed methane drilling, opencast, and Underground Coal Gasification, with NO reference to local communities, while opposing a windfarm at Hermitage, that Duke of Buccleuch described as “environmental vandalism”.
    Scottish Government need to decide whether community empowerment is more than just a slogan, or whether being “open for business means that INEOS,Buccleuch et al, trump (no pun intended!) small local tourism businesses like ours

  4. Major landowners benefit no matter if its wind or fracking, hopefully in the long term land reform will address this, so local people can benefit from community owned windfarms and renewables. Its sad this Nuclear is being phased out in Scotland, as would be so easy to make Scotland carbon neutral by combining nuclear and renewables. In order to preserve or ecological future we must keep the SNH wild land map free of renewables, whats the point of tackling climate change if we lose our natural assets in the process, Scotland can generate its energy from renewable alone, but the world still needs nuclear.

  5. Have you got any sources that this “shift” will happen Mike or are you just trying to stay positive? Since you’re speaking up for the poor can you help us get the estimated 10-33% of our homes’ value back when turbines are built next to them. A strange “shift” in power from the SNP overlords from South Ayrshire Council and East Ayrshire Council to build 130 new turbines around Straiton in such a hurry given both councils had just knocked back proposals for over 50 more elsdewhere. I wonder why they’d knock back something so advantageous? Answers on a postcard bro http://savestraitonforscotland.com/2014/07/24/dersalloch-windfarm-approved-despite-assurances-of-an-inquiry

    • The article describes the shift that has already happened. This is part of an essential move to a low carbon economy away from fossil fuels and nuclear. Unfortunat5ely we dont yet have a Magic Fairy Dust to create energy.

      • The essential shift is away from carbon – Nuclear is low carbon so why move away from it?

        • First, because we don’t need it. Second because it creates vast amounts of waste product that we can’t deal with. Third because its extortionate. Sellafeild alone will costs £70 billion to decontaminate, that’s only one station.

          • More people die from air pollution in scotland each year than globally from nuclear accidents. It’s a relatively safe form of energy, if its good enough for James lovelock and Jim Hansen is good enough for me.

      • “we dont need it” – actually we do. Renewables only account for about 10% – 15% of our energy requirements. Hydrocarbons account for approx 70 to 75%. That’s the area that needs to be targeted. Getting rid of nuclear just delays getting rid of hydrocarbons.

        Sellafield is hardly a typical nuclear power plant. Chapelcross decomm cost is estimated at around £800 million (what has the yearly subsidy for Wind been?). Would modern plants be less expensive?

        How much will it cost to decommission all the wind turbines? What’s the plan for the vast amounts of waste concrete that will be embedded in moors across the land? Or the cost to decontaminate the land around the rare earth mines in china?

        The waste issue is more “wont” than “cant” (and the amounts are hardly vast).

  6. Because Nulcear doesn’t offer any kind of energy independence – the fuel sources are mined from a very few places on earth, and as demand for the fuel goes up, so must the price in a limited market. In that respect it’s no different from fossil fuels. Second, Nuclear comes with crippling decommisioning costs, as well as massive start up subsidies. It also doesn’t help that there is no technology transfer from using nuclear – i.e. we gain no knowledge that we can sell as products later, unlike with new renewable technology. Finally, if a wind turbine fails it’s triple time at the weekend for the guys who have to fix it. If a reactor fails it can mean a massive ecological and societal disaster. Even with the best will in the world, the risk of a catastrophic reactor fail with nuclear fission is present – one of the hallmarks of each of the accidents from three mile island to Fukishima is that there is no common thread for how the accident begun, we are constantly finding new ways for these accidents to occur. In terms of risk management a modern Western reactor may have a very small chance of happening, but the outcome of that risk occuring is very, very big so the risk is still a finite number. I just don’t see it as being viable in the long term becuase of that.

    • “Because Nulcear doesn’t offer any kind of energy independence the fuel sources are mined from a very few places on earth, and as demand for the fuel goes up, so must the price in a limited market. In that respect it’s no different from fossil fuels.”

      1 – The cost of uranium wont increase above the cost of recovering it from sea water (roughly three times the cost of mining)
      2 – I dont know what makes you think it comes from “very few places on earth”.
      3 – you can reprocess it (e.g. MOX) and use it again
      4 – The energy density is massive – i.e. you dont need that much of it anyway (reactors only need refuelling every 18 months or so)

      “Second, Nuclear comes with crippling decommisioning costs”

      Are they more or less crippling than the costs of Climate Change? (or Wind Turbines for that matter – see prev post regarding £1 billion/year subsidy)

      “It also doesn’t help that there is no technology transfer from using nuclear i.e. we gain no knowledge that we can sell as products later, unlike with new renewable technology.”

      You better tell the Belgiums then – because they’re busy doing this http://myrrha.sckcen.be/en/MYRRHA

      “If a reactor fails it can mean a massive ecological and societal disaster”

      Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukishima v Climate Change

      Also, these guys think we’re going to need nuclear -http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/docs/2013/2013_Kharecha_Hansen_1.pdf
      and I’ve got a sneaky feeling they know more about it than we do.

  7. I live in an area that benefits from the community funding that comes from local windfarms. That brings benefits to the local community.
    However, much more money goes into the pockets of the estate owners.
    The community gets some pocket money while the landowners make big profits.
    All energy should belong to the nation.

    • That’s true, that’s why I said “Now decentralised and community owned renewables are the next part of the shift to a viable energy system or Scotland, one that puts us in charge of our energy economy as well as our ecological future.”

      • That’s the shift I was referring to, with 130 turbines due to place me in negative equity for only being able to afford a suitable home in a village 15 miles from where I live – that’s over half the size of Europe’s largest 215 turbine wind farm just 10 miles from me now which has caused the public water supply to be poisoned by higher than safe limit levels of carcinogens for over 9 months during it’s construction (look into Whitelee) – I look forward to community owned energy but I just don’t see it if they’re still even considering planning this after our new land reform powers.
        With £25,000 per turbine per year handed to already rich landowners (why not pay then half of that taxfree and we can live off the interest) I don’t understand why the government don’t just build them where they own land, or build on land owned by WWF, RSPB and other charitable partners.
        Why are charities being paid to be partners for big wind, shipping in campaigners like turbines from elsewhere in the same way Better Together used so effectively, can Land Banks talk us through this http://docs.wind-watch.org/vos-strangebedfellows-31jan08-lores.pdf ?
        I’m not a fan of nuclear either and believe the media should push for our government to release health statistics for their core workers given our NHS is separate, unless they treat them privately. Although I am informed the nuclear stories those papers you call tabloids covering each and every recent problem from are known as ‘dirty’ when ‘clean’ nuclear was always available, or at least is now.
        Given that tidal appears to be in dire straights I’d be looking at solar, IBM’s video on this looks extremely promising, from a company that actually manufactures something here in Scotland. Would be easier to protect wildlife from solar generators than 589ft turbines too I expect, that and no solar farm has been branded a “Human Health Hazard” due to health issues like the first wind farm has just last month.

  8. Where is the link to the report from the Dept of Energy and Climate Change? These sorts of stories are much better with sources included.

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