Earlier this year Brodies hosted a series of business breakfasts in association with The Sunday Times covering ‘hot topic’ issues such as the devolution of further powers to the Scottish Parliament, EU membership, infrastructure and energy. These sessions allowed panelists with a wide variety of views to present their arguments to an audience of senior figures from the public, private and third sectors. Following our breakfast discussion entitled Power of Scotland – what does the future hold for Scotland’s energy sector? we invited two of the panelists, Niall Stuart, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, and Tom Pickering, Director of INEOS Upstream, to write blogs for us sharing their thoughts respectively on the future of the Scottish renewables sector and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Read Niall’s contribution below:
No matter your political beliefs, your views on renewables, or the rights and wrongs in the debate on fracking, it is clear that Scotland’s energy sector is in a period of massive change. Our last coal-fired power station is now closed, renewables are our main source of power, and the economics of North Sea oil and gas are under sustained assault.
But I would argue that we are only at the very beginning of the changes that Scotland and the UK need to make – and that we will make – in order to meet our climate change targets.
For despite the fact that renewable electricity now generates the equivalent of 57% of our annual demand for electricity, the sector still provides only a fraction of our heating and transport needs – which together account for three-quarters of Scotland’s energy use. And we have a long way to meet our target of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
So the future has to be continued growth of clean forms of electricity, and the start of a massive programme to replace the use of gas for heating and road fuels for transport.
In the short term that should mean further expansion of established and new forms of renewables, though that can only be delivered with the right policy framework from Westminster to support investment – despite the fact that onshore wind and solar are now the cheapest forms of power generation that can be deployed at scale.
In heat and transport, we will see also further expansion of existing renewable energy sources, such as biomass and biofuels. But we are also likely to see a significant shift to heat pumps and other forms of electric heating, and the growth of two new-ish sectors in transport – electricity and hydrogen.
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These changes will in turn accelerate the need for even greater levels of renewable power than today, and also the need to change the way we manage, consume and even think about energy. A far more decentralised and dynamic system, with a significant level of storage, would also see consumers incentivised to use power at times of high output and low demand.
And let’s not forget that every developed economy is wrestling with the same challenges, meaning significant opportunities for the businesses and countries that ‘crack the code’. But with significant expertise in energy storage, distribution and management, one thing that shouldn’t change is the importance of energy to the economy, businesses and workforce of Scotland.
Blog by Niall Stuart, Chief Executive, Scottish Renewables