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Scotland’s renewable projects to speed the country out of crisis

Scotland has always been on the front foot when compared to the other British nations in regard to their renewables policy. Therefore, despite their current exposure to the energy crisis, the country is in a strong position to accelerate out of it quickly.

I recently saw some horrifying statistics predicting that 72% of Scottish households are expected to be in fuel poverty by January 2023.

The new study was conducted by the University of York and shows that millions of families will be left trying to make ends meet as energy costs continue to soar.

To risk sounding like a stuck record, this is really completely unnecessary for any British nation. Being at the mercy of (notably unfriendly) foreign suppliers of oil and gas is massively avoidable when we’ve got the space and terrain to install enough solar and wind for everybody.

It truly is like owning a Tesla but insisting on riding a beaten-up scooter to work every day, and paying over the odds to do it no less)

Don’t panic

Luckily, statistics like the ones above are based on our current situation staying as it is. However, all signs point towards positive movement in the energy markets from the middle of next year onwards. 

Firstly, this is because consumer behavior is changing. The industry as a whole anticipates a domestic solar boom throughout 2023 and 2024, for obvious reasons. According to GreenMatch, we are already now installing solar panels faster than any other European nation.

Secondly, as Chris Giles put it for the Financial Times, “No one should feel delighted they are paying more for energy this winter, but the [increased] price signal has done its job. It has forced Europe to adapt. Advanced capitalist economies are remarkably successful in this regard.”

In other words, we’ll be better off on the other side of this. We’ve been kicked off a cliff but in many ways, we’ll be more economically and energetically evolved owing to lessons learned.

Europe is in search of its own Inflation Reduction Act moment to boost clean energy supply chains. Two of Europe’s clean energy leaders joined Episode 28 of the Factor This! podcast from Enlit Europe in Frankfurt, Germany to discuss Europe’s path forward and the prospect for transformational industrial policy. 

Scotland the brave

Scotland has always been on the front foot when compared to the other British nations in regard to their renewables policy. Therefore, despite their current exposure to the energy crisis, the country is in a strong position to accelerate out of it quickly.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is a vocal advocate of renewables and consistently pushes for greater advancement. Additionally, in my history of working in the industry, there’s a lot less NIMBYism involved in project development north of the border.

Given the country’s appetite for expanding renewables, it’s no surprise that year on year, the figures of development and generation increase exponentially. In the first half of 2022 for example, Scotland generated 18,568 GWh of renewable electricity, up 29.2% on the same point in 2021.

For those at risk of fuel poverty, these figures are not just lights on the horizon but the strongest of signals that their fortunes will be reversed dramatically in the near future. 

It’s like a second oil boom, but this time, it’ll benefit everybody.

Keeping Scotland at the forefront

Scottish Renewables is an organization that exists to create a nation that ‘leads the world in renewable energy.’ Their members include development heavyweights EDF Energy and EnergieKontor, consultancies such as ARUP and Worley, and homegrown manufacturers such as Dulas (which manufactures the iconic Chillwind Masts in Inverness) and Balmoral (manufacturers of buoyancy aids for offshore wind).

I spoke to Helen Melone, senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables, about how renewables can mitigate the Scottish energy crisis.

“Every kilowatt of renewable power used means burning less gas, which is good for the environment and good for consumers’ pockets. In 2021, renewables made up 29% of electricity generation in the UK, displacing around £6.1 billion worth of gas. This is equivalent to £221 of gas per household,” Melone said.

Scotland is the land of renewables opportunity (Photo courtesy: Bjorn Snelders/Unsplash)

“While renewable energy is helping to reduce household bills in the long-term it is exciting to see renewable technologies and low-carbon heat solutions being used to alleviate fuel poverty more directly, too. For example, the Queens Quay water source heat pump project in Clydebank – the UK’s largest high-temperature river source heat pump facility – will deliver substantial carbon savings as well as reduce fuel poverty by supplying affordable, renewable heat to 1,200 households.”

“In Glasgow, Cube Housing Association has installed a new district heating system, fuelled by wood pellets, which has transformed a community in Broomhill by helping to make homes warmer and cheaper to heat.”

“What is clear is that a combination of renewable electricity generation technologies such as wind and solar, low-carbon heat solutions such as district heating, and energy efficiency are vital to not only reduce household bills but to allow us to reach our net zero ambitions.”

It’s exciting to see such concrete evidence of energy-bill-busting happening across Scotland. 

And… renewables are filling the country’s coffers 

There’s also a wider economic picture that cements the place of renewables in the UK’s future.

As the cost of producing power from renewables like wind and solar is now so low, projects which have a ‘Contract for Difference’ with the UK Government to sell their power actually return money to the public purse rather than receiving a subsidy. 

Between November 2021 and January 2022, renewable energy projects paid back £114.4 million to energy suppliers in this way, a number which is expected to increase as we replace aging fossil fuel electricity generation with renewables.

If you pitch this against the sickening profits posted earlier this year by leading fossil fuel-based energy companies …well, we are back at the Tesla/scooter metaphor.

In summary…

This winter is going to be unavoidably expensive for the majority of households, but in the long-run better times are coming. Once the shadow of this crisis has receded, we are likely to never see another one like it ever again. Make no mistake that this mess will be looked back on as the nail in the coffin of British dependence on energy imports.

The tide is turning, and it ain’t made of oil.

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