Scotland targets 20GW of additional renewables capacity in draft energy strategy

The Scottish government has published its draft energy strategy for a ‘fair and just’ transition to net zero for consultation, including plans to add an additional 20 gigawatts of low-cost renewable energy generation capacity by 2030.

The core vision for the strategy is to have a “flourishing, climate friendly energy system that delivers affordable, resilient and clean energy supplies for Scotland’s households, communities and business” by 2045.

The strategy outlines plans to increase renewable energy generation capacity so that nearly 50% of current energy demand comes from renewables. The current capacity is at 13.4 gigawatts (GW), with the strategy proposing an additional 20GW by 2030.

The plan also sets out plans to increase the contributions of solar and hydro power, with an ambition for five gigawatts of renewable and low-carbon hydrogen power by 2030, and 25 gigawatts by 2045, it also outlines ambitions to generate surplus energy and renewable hydrogen for export to Europe.

Thomas McMillan, who chairs trade body Solar Energy Scotland, described the target set by the report as a “major step forward” for solar power. However, he noted the Scottish government has still “not immediately” accepted the call made by a cross-party group of MSPs and the solar industry to reach 4-6 gigawatts of solar power generation by 2030.

He said: “Strong, stretching but ultimately deliverable targets: that is the last piece of the jigsaw to support more rapid deployment of solar power. Harnessing more of the sun’s rays – one of the cheapest and greenest sources of energy known to humanity – is exactly what Scotland needs to help combat the energy price crisis”.

The trade body anticipates that 6GW could be reached through a combination of 3.5GW of ground-mounted utility-scale installations, 1GW on commercial-scale rooftops and 1.5GW mounted on homes.

Scotland’s net zero and energy secretary Michel Matheson said that at a time of “unprecedented uncertainty in our energy sector” the transition to renewables is important to avoid high energy prices and reduce reliance on the global market.

He said: “While we do not hold all the powers to address these issues at source, this strategy sets out how we can achieve an energy transition that ensures we have sufficient, secure and affordable energy to meet our needs, support Scotland’s economic growth and capitalise on future sustainable export opportunities.”

The Scottish government has said that more updates on its plans for solar will be given later on this year.

In the strategy, there is also a commitment to explore shared ownership projects of renewables which the government hopes will maximise household, business and community benefit from energy projects, and take stronger action on fair energy market reform to improve access to affordable energy.

The Scottish government also set out final policy positions on fossil fuel energy, including consulting on a presumption against new exploration for North Sea oil and gas, however Friends of the Earth has pointed out that there is no end date for fossil fuels noted.

The plan did suggest that by the end of 2030 there will be no nuclear power, coal extraction or use of unconventional oil and gas or exploration of onshore conventional oil and gas.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s head of campaigns Mary Church said: “After two years of preparation, this is a document chock full of existing commitments that we already know are insufficient to meet our climate targets, never mind the surge in action we need to see this decade.

“The Scottish government has shied away from taking the big decisions we know are needed like setting an end date for fossil fuels in our energy system within the decade, and committing to phasing out oil and gas in line with science and justice.”

Church also said that the strategy must not rely on technologies such as carbon capture and storage, as well as fossil hydrogen, which she described as “profiteering” from oil and gas companies.

Church continued that the strategy “misses an open goal by failing to dramatically ramp up action on energy efficiency and public transport which can help improve lives, cut bills and deliver on climate commitments”.

Published as part of the draft Energy Strategy is a Just Transition Plan for the energy sector, which details support for growing the highly skilled energy workforce and increasing jobs in energy generation and the supply chain.

Analysis shows the number of low carbon production jobs is estimated to rise from 19,000 in 2019 to 77,000 by 2050. However, Church suggests the level of detail on how these jobs will be secured is needed. She said: “A huge dose of realism is required for many of the jobs estimates, particularly on potential for the hydrogen sector.”

Scotland’s just transition minister Richard Lochhead said: “The oil and gas industry has made a vast contribution to Scotland’s economy and its workers are some of the most highly-skilled in the world. But Scotland’s oil and gas basin is now a mature resource.

“A just transition to a net zero energy system will secure alternative employment and economic opportunities for those already working in the industry and will provide new green jobs in Scotland for future generations.”