Around the globe, many countries have set 2020 renewable energy goals with the hope of reducing emissions and dependence on expensive foreign oil and gas imports.
Scotland is right on track for its goal of 100 percent energy from renewables by 2020, according to a new government report. The Electricity Generation Policy Statement (EGPS) released by the Scottish government emphasized emissions reduction by means of carbon capture and storage for fossil fuel power plants as well as addition of renewable energy generation instead of new nuclear plants.
Department of Energy and Climate Change, The National Archives, United Kingdom
Nuclear energy currently comprises nearly a third of the country’s electricity generation. [More information here] But the government predicts that if major changes can be put into effect in the coming decades, nuclear will become a smaller percentage of the mix and overall emissions will drop drastically, with carbon being eliminated completely from emissions by 2030. If succesful, the government predicts that household electricity prices will also fall from the projected 2020 cost of £1,379 to £1,285.
Scotland’s goal might not be so far-fetched. The country already boasts a relatively high percentage of renewables: nearly a fifth of the country’s power is from hydro and other renewable generation sources, more than any other country in the United Kingdom.
Wave and tidal power may become more significant sources of electricity generation for Scotland as well, as the country is surrounded by water and has easy access to waves. Scotland houses the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) that is busy researching and developing wave and tidal power. Devices there range from small underwater wind turbines to large 500 kilowatt (kW) and even 800 kW wave and tidal devices.
Last November, the Scottish government committed £18 million (about $29 million) to develop the country’s first commercial wave and tidal power plants. The money is part of a larger £35 million fund created to support the marine and tidal industry over the course of three years.
But even with significant increases in hydro, wave, marine and wind energy, Scotland’s challenge will be to revamp basic infrastructure to accomodate a dramatically different electricity generation system if it is to succeed in reaching its goal. Unlike massive thermal power plants, renewable energy generation is generally smaller and distributed and variable. New transmission lines need to be built, new energy management and load reduction systems need to be in place, and energy storage needs to be secured for times when renewable generation slows.
If Scotland succeeds, the country will be a dramatic example of success for the the rest of the world. A relatively small country with less than optimal domestic resources, Scotland will need maximize its use of ingenuity, government support and scientific discovery to switch to renewables. But one thing is certain, if Scotland can do it, then large industrial countries can do it too. It’s all a matter of time and commitment.