The draft EU Renewables Directive has a target of achieving "20 20 by 2020" [1]. Is this a convenient political slogan or has the target been identified on other grounds? The target is to achieve 20% of final energy consumption (electricity, heating and transport) from renewable sources by 2020 and a 20% reduction target in emissions. To put this into context, in 2007, only 4.96% of electricity was renewably generated in the UK [2] and this does not include renewable heat and transport. Whether the target was set simply as a political slogan was recently considered by the House of Lords. The Committee of the House of Lords [3] found that the 20% was not arrived at wholly by "deeply scientific" reasoning; there was also a political aspect. The 20 20 target is set at an international level and each country has then been allocated a target based on a flat rate increase in renewables for each Member State and an additional increase based on each Member State's GDP per head. For the UK, the target is for 15% of its final energy consumption to come from renewable sources by 2020. Although 15% is not the highest target to achieve out of all Member States (Sweden for example will be committed to achieving 49% and Latvia 42%), the UK has the largest percentage point increase to achieve (Sweden achieved 39.8% in 2005 and Latvia 34.9% compared with 1.3% in the UK [4] ).

Scotland's Targets

The Scottish Government believes that Scotland should aspire to a higher figure than the UK as a whole, and would like to aim for the figure of 20% of final energy consumption including:

  • an emissions reduction target of 80% by 2050 and
  • a target that 50% of Scottish gross electricity consumption should come from renewable generation in Scotland by 2020, with an interim target of 31% by 2011.  

In order to attain these targets, significant progress above current levels will be required in all sectors and clear guidance from Government that is reflected in the planning and consenting system.

How will the targets be met?

Given the stage that onshore wind has reached in its development, it is recognised that the "vast bulk [5]" of new capacity will be delivered by additional onshore wind. In the next decade, it is expected that offshore wind, wave and tidal, and biomass will make a significant contribution towards meeting the targets.

With regard to renewable heat, there is an opportunity to develop renewable heat in large-scale public buildings such as hospitals and in suitable district heating where heat needs are constant over long periods. However, in terms of scale, the main technologies to increase renewable heat in the UK are likely to be biomass based such as renewable energy from waste and biomass-fuelled combined heat and power plants, which would also deliver a proportion of renewable electricity.

With regard to sustainable transport, the two main transport issues to consider are biofuels and alternative technologies, such as electric or hydrogen cars. Biofuels are the only renewable transport fuel commercially available on a significant scale at present. In the longer term, electric and hydrogen powered vehicles are likely to be of greater significance.

Key issues for Renewable Energy

Whatever type of renewable energy is considered, electricity, heat or transport, the key issues are deliverability, security of supply and distribution of the resource.


With regard to deliverability, the planning and consenting systems have a fundamental role to play. The Government's objective is to have an approach to planning and consenting which ensures that renewable energy developments can proceed expeditiously and discourages proposals which do not accord with wider energy, environmental and planning objectives. Scottish Planning Policy 6 – Renewable Energy reiterates this objective, however with the planning policy system currently under review, it remains to be seen how much longer SPP6 (issued in 2007) will remain extant.

Security of Supply

Security of the supply of energy is one of the issues that the proposed EU Renewables Directive seeks to address. By increasing the amount of energy generated domestically from renewable sources, the EU should be able to reduce its dependency on fuel imports and improve the security of its energy supply. Related to security of supply is the intermittency of supply of renewable energy which in turn has the potential to affect reliability of electricity supply. The evidence gathered by the House of Lords suggested that the intermittency could be managed and although this is likely to increase energy costs, it was found that there is a role for energy storage technology.

Distribution of Energy

The distribution of the electricity, heat and transport is a key issue if the targets are to be met. The draft EU Renewables Directive states that priority access to the transmission grid should be given to renewable energy. The UK Government currently rejects this proposal but recognises that there are access problems for renewable generators.


The Government states in the Renewable Framework Consultation that "We could become Europe's biggest exporter of renewable energy if we take robust advantage of our potential." A great amount of work and effort from all stakeholders will be required if the targets are to be met and if Scotland is to become a key international player in renewable energy.