Scotland met 97% of its electricity demand in 2020 with renewables, but did not meet the 100% target set almost a decade ago. In 2011, the Scottish Government set an ambitious goal: to supply 100% of the country’s net electricity needs with renewable sources by 2020. Although Scotland failed to achieve this goal, it provided 97.4% of its net electricity from clean sources. Renewable energy production in Scotland has tripled in the last 10 years, which is enough to supply electricity to seven million homes. Wind is still Scotland’s largest renewable energy. Climate change has been one of the main reasons for the increased use of clean energy in Scotland. Renewable energy projects prevent the emission of millions of tonness of carbon into the atmosphere annually and have significant socio-economic benefits.
Renewable Energy in Scotland
As the Scottish government states in gov.scot, it has plans to replace existing power plants with renewable energy and hopes to be able to supply half of the country’s energy consumption using renewable sources by 2050 and achieve a low carbon future for Scotland. The Scottish government adds that they cannot be entirely certain what their energy system will look like by 2050; however, their ambition and policies over the coming years will set them on the right path to reach a low carbon future.
Scotland has chosen a good time to run these programmes. Britain is also working to remove coal from its industry. If Scotland and other British-controlled areas with access to wind energy can send their electricity to other countries, areas without large turbines could also reduce their dependence on fossil fuels to generate electricity. This trend is likely to be difficult for other countries to follow, as setting up wind and solar power plants to generate electricity requires special conditions. Scotland has strong winds and a long coastline. Scotland’s success in harnessing wind energy shows that the scale of renewable energy supply has unimaginably expanded in this country.
According to Scottish renewables, renewable electricity generation is now approximately equal to 97% of Scotland’s gross electricity consumption. Gross electricity consumption refers to total electricity generation minus net exports. As stated in gov.scot, “Renewable electricity generation in Q1 2021 in Scotland dropped for the first time since 2016 – 8.8 TWh were generated between January and March 2021. This is down 24% YOY and is likely due to decreases in wind and rain levels compared to previous years”.
According to the Weather Energy Institute, Scotland’s wind turbines generated more than 9.8 million MWh of electricity between January and June 2019, enough to power 4.47 million homes, which is almost twice as many as homes in Scotland.
English Dependence on Scottish Energy
As stated in Herbert Smith Freehills, in 2019 Scotland produced 25% of the UK’s renewable electricity. It should be noted that Scotland is home to only about 8% of Britain’s population. It is, therefore, currently leading the way in terms of renewable energy generation, which is mainly due to wind power.
Furthermore, it is also stated that an independent Scotland also faces its own challenges in decarbonising its energy sector. Scotland plans not to proceed with new nuclear plants while 24.5% of its electricity was generated by nuclear plants during 2019.
During the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, in an effort to persuade Scotland to remain under the umbrella of the United Kingdom, the British government announced that it had taken steps to extract more oil and gas benefits from the northern part of the country. The British government, while announcing its plan to strengthen the country’s oil and gas sector, warned that if Scotland seceded, the sector would be weakened. An evident fact is that London was looking to lure the Scottish people.
Similarly, in the dispute over Scottish independence in 2014, the UK energy secretary, Ed Davey, told the Guardian that independence would force up energy bills for Scottish households. He added, “The size of the UK protects Scottish consumers from the full costs of Scottish power generation. In the UK, Scotland’s households pay less than they would in Scotland alone.”
In response to Ed Davey’s words, Scotland’s energy minister, Fergus Ewing, called his claims “Political posturing” and stated that wind energy subsidies make up a “Very small proportion” – currently 1.4% – of the costs on the average energy bill. He explained that in an independent Scotland “Over time bills would go down because we would have greater security of supply.” Ewing told the Guardian that “England does require Scotland’s electricity to keep the lights on”.
According to Euractiv, Scotland’s government on Tuesday (7 September, 2021) pledged to hold a new referendum on Scottish independence by the end of 2023, despite strong opposition from London. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told lawmakers in Edinburgh that their aim, Covid permitting, is to hold the referendum before the end of 2023. A crucial point to consider in forthcoming talks with Westminster is the fact that UK energy dependence on Scotland is a special privilege for the Scottish National Party (SNP).