Energy Transition

Scotland witnesses a record surge in renewable electricity generation

Renewable electricity generation

Renewable electricity generation surged last year. Image: REUTERS/David Moir

Rob Smith
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Renewable electricity generation in Scotland surged last year, with an estimated 68.1% of gross consumption coming from green initiatives.

That is according to statistics published by the UK government, which show Scotland increased renewable electricity production by 26% in comparison to 2016.

Scotland's renewable electricity generation

The increase, which equates to an additional generation of 5.1 terawatt hours (TWh), was thanks largely to the country capturing an extra 4.2 TWh from onshore wind. In total, Scotland generated 24.8 TWh from renewables last year.

Year wise data for renewable electricity generation
Year wise data for renewable electricity generation Image: BEIS Energy Trends March 2018

The data also shows that Scotland’s renewable electricity capacity was 9.9 gigawatts in 2017, an increase of around 10% in comparison to a year earlier.

In response to the findings, Claire Mack, chief executive of industry body Scottish Renewables, said: “Scotland has an enormous renewable energy resource: our winds, waves, tides, rainfall and even our longer daylight hours are tremendous assets to the country, and renewable energy enables us to use them to produce direct economic and environmental benefits.

“These figures for renewable electricity generation show Scotland as a clean energy powerhouse, producing more electricity than ever and transferring much of it to markets in the rest of Great Britain, all the time reducing carbon emissions from our power sector.”

Pedro G. Gomez Pensado, Head of Oil and Gas Industry at the World Economic Forum, adds that it is “encouraging to see Scotland’s achievement in producing a record amount of energy in 2017 from renewable sources.

“This trend in recent years has contributed towards the United Kingdom’s overall ranking of 7th out of 114 countries on the newly released World Economic Forum’s Energy Transition Index. The UK is better prepared for an effective transition to a more sustainable, more secure and more affordable energy system.”

In comparison to Scotland, generation in England increased by 14% to 63.7 TWh, while Wales increased its generation by 34% to 7 TWh. In Northern Ireland, renewable electricity generation increased by more than 40% – up from 1 TWh in 2016 to 3.3 TWh last year.

The rise in renewable electricity generation

Globally, nations that are traditionally heavily reliant on fossil fuels are also ramping up investment in renewable technology and increasing clean energy production.

The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Renewables 2017 report reveals two-thirds – or 165 gigawatts – of net new capacity in 2016 came from clean sources. This was thanks largely to booming solar-panel deployment in China and throughout the world, which grew by 50% to around 74 gigawatts.

The report also shows that by 2022, China, India and the United States will account for around 66% of all clean energy expansion by 2022.

Non renewable and renewable electricity generation graph
Non renewable and renewable electricity generation graph Image: IEA

Meanwhile, the European Union has set itself a target of producing 20% of all energy across the bloc from renewable sources by 2020.

According to data from the EU’s statistical office, Eurostat, Sweden consumed 53.9% of energy from renewable sources in 2016, while Finland (38.7%), Latvia (37.2%), Austria (33.5%) and Denmark (32.2%) also recorded large shares.

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However, the IEA says renewables growth across the EU to 2022 is predicted to be 40% lower than between 2011 and 2016, with the renewable electricity generation market hampered by weaker demand, overcapacity, and a lack of clarity on the capacity volumes that will be auctioned. What’s more, policy uncertainty within the bloc beyond 2020 remains high.

Growth in the capacity of renewable electricity generation
Growth in the capacity of renewable electricity generation Image: IEA

Fortunately, the report says if the new EU Renewable Energy Directive covering the post-2020 period is adopted, it would address this challenge by requiring a three-year period for policies to support renewable energy, thereby improving the market’s predictability.

Overall, energy from renewables will reach 30% of the global mix by 2022, the IEA says, which is an increase from 24% in 2016. And despite slower capacity growth over the next four years, hydropower will remain the largest source of renewable electricity generation in the IEA forecast, followed by wind, solar PV and bioenergy.

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Energy TransitionNature and Biodiversity
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