New figures showing Scotland’s progress towards decarbonising electricity generation demonstrate the risks posed by removing support for the renewables industry earlier than planned, energy minister Fergus Ewing has said.
Statistics from the Department of Energy and Climate Change show Scotland generated 4,832 GWh of renewable electricity in the second quarter of 2015, a 37.3% rise from the same quarter in 2014.
Wind and hydro output increased by 52.2% and 27% respectively compared to the same quarter the year before, with Scotland generating 41% of the UK’s wind output.
The Scottish Government’s target of reducing energy consumption by 12% by 2020 is already at the required level in 2013 – down by 13.3% from the 2005-2007 baseline, Mr Ewing said.
He warned, though, the progress demonstrated by the latest figures is threatened by policy decisions by the UK Government.
UK ministers have announced curbs to solar and onshore wind subsidies and other support.
Industry body Scottish Renewables has warned excluding new onshore wind farms from a subsidy scheme from April 1 2016, a year earlier than planned, alongside other decisions, could cost billions in investment and threatens jobs in the sector.
Mr Ewing said: “Scotland continues to make good progress on renewable electricity generation and annually we are now producing double the amount we did in 2006.
“Scotland has made great progress in increasing the amount of clean, green electricity in our energy mix.
“However, we are very concerned that the damaging and premature cuts to support for renewable energy being driven through by the UK Government will hamper future progress.
“If they are going to pursue this policy, there should be a sufficiently flexible grace period covering projects already in the planning system.
“This flexibility would ensure companies and communities are not penalised unfairly by the UK Government policy change where they have already invested.”
The UK Government has said it wants to reduce emissions in the most cost-effective way and keep bills as low as possible for consumers and businesses.
It said government support has already driven down the cost of renewable energy significantly, helping technologies to “stand on their own two feet”.
WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “Scotland’s renewables industry now supports some 20,000 jobs and helps us avoid over a million tonnes of carbon emissions every month.
“While we need to see a change in attitude towards onshore wind and solar at Westminster, there’s still much that we can do here in Scotland.
“As we head towards next year’s elections, we look to all parties to continue this energy transition by committing to produce an electricity demand reduction strategy and support the continued deployment of renewables.”
A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesman said: “Government support has driven down the cost of renewable energy significantly and these statistics show that has successfully enabled renewables to compete with other technologies.
“Our priority is now to move towards a low-carbon economy whilst ensuring subsidies are used where they are needed most, which provides the best value for money for hard-working bill payers”.
Joss Blamire, senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables, said: “These latest UK Government figures show the importance of our renewable energy industry and underline the huge resource we have available in Scotland.
“There is still plenty of scope to take further advantage of the natural resource advantage given to Scotland’s renewable energy sector. That development, however, depends on continued Westminster support for renewable energy.”