Ministers in Scotland have unveiled plans to ensure that 50 percent of the nation’s energy needs are supplied by low or zero-carbon renewable sources, by 2030. The move represents a significant shift for the Scottish National Party, after decades of support for North Sea oil production. 47 percent of Scotland’s energy use is now supplied by petroleum from platforms in the North Sea, and 27 percent is supplied from domestic or imported natural gas for home heating.
Environmental activists have criticized the new plan for a lack of detail provided in how to achieve such goals, especially after Scottish ministers privately admitted that reducing oil consumption would be the biggest challenge in achieving new energy targets. The new targets, unveiled last week, ambitiously seek to reduce greenhouse emissions by 66 percent in 15 years – by 2032. The targets represent some of the world’s most ambitious.
Reserves of oil in the North Sea are already running low, and the new target means Scotland will have to move towards low-carbon energy sources before the reserves are fully depleted.
Scottish energy minister Paul Wheelhouse said Tuesday that the new energy target was set in order to support the 2032 climate target. He highlighted successes, such as energy self-sufficient Scottish islands, and the fact that 60 percent of the country’s domestic electricity consumption already comes from renewables.
“We can all take pride in such successes, however, it is clear that more progress will be required – particularly in the supply of low-carbon heat and transport – if we are to remain on track to meet our ambitious climate change goals.”
Winfarm operators will be pressured to make wind power cheap enough that it does not require subsidies, bus companies would be called on to transition to hydrogen-powered buses, and drivers could be pushed to buy electric cars.
Scotland is already expected to fall short of its 2020 target to supply all domestic electricity needs with renewables, leading renewable industry sources to doubt whether Wheelhouse was being realistic in setting the new targets. With offshore wind projects progressing slower than expected, industry insiders have said they expect 87 percent of domestic energy to come from renewables by 2020, falling short of the target.
For his part, Wheelhouse did highlight that offshore wind prices were falling faster than expected – by 32 percent since 2012.
However, the draft of the new energy strategy failed to address the costs of meeting the target, Scotland’s continued dependence on nuclear energy, and the details of energy schemes needed to meet the target.