The recently published Scottish budget has increased energy spend in Scotland by 17% for 2018/19. The new budget will include an additional £60 million for the low-carbon innovation fund and £137 million for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation. Claire Mack, the Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, said, “It is encouraging that the government recognises renewable energy as a key driver of Scotland’s economy.” Heat decarbonisation is currently receiving focus across the UK, being a relatively untapped opportunity compared to the action already taken to cut emissions in the power generation sector. Approximately 59% of electricity in Scotland is from renewable generation. In November, 77% of Scotland’s power demand was met by wind alone. Wind is a significant resource in Scotland, although growth of onshore wind has been reduced since it was removed from the UK subsidy scheme in 2015. Last week, plans were unveiled to once again include onshore wind located on remote islands in the scheme.
The budget announcement is a precursor to the publication of Scotland’s energy strategy, which is due to be published before the end of the year. The strategy, which has been the subject of a number of detailed consultations, will set out an energy vision to 2050. The draft plan includes a commitment to 100% electricity from renewables by 2020 and for 50% of energy across the whole economy to be sourced from renewables. The Scottish government must carefully balance the requirement to address climate change with the need to support a highly regulated North Sea oil and gas industry, which forms a vital element of the Scottish economy. The consultation has highlighted the advantages of the UK reducing its reliance on the imports of fossil fuels to both reduce emissions and improve energy security. North Sea production uses the least polluting production methods in the world and, combined with carbon capture and storage, can be seen as the preferred source of oil and gas. Scotland already has a CCS demonstration project operating in Aberdeenshire and seeks to benefit from the extensive CCS opportunities in the North Sea. It is expected that Scotland’s energy strategy will be published by the end of the year.