Just north of England lies a small country with big ambitions. Scotland is home to some of the UK and Europe's most spectacular scenery, but this stunning landscape is more than just a pretty face: It also plays host to a fertile bed of renewable energy resources.

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By Niall Stuart, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables

Scotland has a lot to be proud of when it comes to renewable energy. We are privileged to have some of the best natural resources both on and offshore and have worked hard to encourage the energy industry to harness this potential to the fullest.

Over the last few years Scotland's renewable energy sector has grown faster than anyone could have foreseen - doubling in capacity in the last decade to more than 4GW of installed capacity across all technologies. The most recently available official figures from 2009 show renewables provided 27.4 per cent of Scotland's gross consumption of electricity, clearly demonstrating that the renewables sector is already a major part of Scotland's energy mix, and a significant part of our economy.

Our new Government has recognised this and in May announced an eye-catching 100 per cent target that means our aim is to generate the equivalent of annual electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020.

The renewable energy industry in Scotland has flourished and strengthened under a strong political and public will which has stirred interest and envy in many countries across the globe.

Success Story

Sunset at Whitelee Wind Farm, the largest onshore wind farm in Europe.
Photo: Scottish Renewables
Scotland has 25 per cent of Europe's tidal stream and 10 per cent Europe's wave power. We are home to Europe's largest onshore wind farm, Beatrice Wind Demonstrator Project in the Moray Firth is the world's first deep water offshore development, and there are plans for the world's first 10GW tidal array in Islay.

We have a lot to be proud of as there have been many success stories across Scotland with new jobs and businesses being created as well as traditional energy producers in oil and gas diversifying into renewables, but we now face an even greater challenge in meeting our new target.

A 100 per cent target is ambitious but it's not unachievable. We will require in the region of another 10GW of capacity. A small proportion of the publicly-announced plans for development in 2020 include:

- 3GW of onshore wind in construction or with planning consent,

- Some 10 GW of agreements for lease with The Crown Estate for Offshore Wind,

- More than 1.6GW of project agreements with the The Crown Estate for Wave and Tidal, development in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters,

- 0.6GW of biomass electricity

Challenges Ahead

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The first priority and the main barrier is grid. There is simply no point in Scotland producing significantly more power than it can consume if we cannot export this to consumers in the rest of Britain and Ireland and subsequently to other parts of Europe. Work is ongoing to strengthen the mainland inter-connector, and on preparatory works for the west coast subsea cable. Scottish & Southern Energy recently announced a feasibility study into an inter-connector with Norway, which would form the latest strand of the increasingly inter-connected European grid.

Likewise, we need new connections to resource-rich areas such as Shetland and the Western Isles, which have huge potential for both onshore and offshore wind and wave and tidal, but which simply lack the necessary connections to the national grid.

Because of our increasing dependence on renewable sources we also have to look seriously at how we store this valuable energy. There are plans for almost 1GW of new pump storage facilities - equal to a sixth of peak demand - and we are home to leading edge research into batteries and hydrogen. These technologies will allow us to smooth out peaks and troughs in supply and will provide an extra degree of energy security.

We have made some headway this year with the official opening of The Hydrogen Office, a state-of-the-art research centre which will accelerate the development of the renewable, hydrogen, fuel cell and energy storage industries in Scotland.

Roles for the Individual

Creating a low carbon economy is vital to our future generations - offshore and onshore wind, hydro, wave and tidal energy as well as bioenergy and renewable heat play an important part and there is increasing interest in how we reduce carbon emissions in our everyday lives. Owning an electric vehicle is presenting itself as a very real and exciting opportunity.

Electric vehicles are just one part of the answer on how to decarbonise our transport system; we can also look to hydrogen fuel cells and biogas. This, like our renewable energy target, will have an enormous impact on our infrastructure whether that is more charging points or hydrogen filling stations and there still remains the question of where these will be located.

There is a fantastic opportunity to create a strong electric vehicle market which will complement the successes we have made in our renewable energy industry. However, for them both to thrive and achieve the kinds of increases in availability and scope possible, we must have investment in our infrastructure first. Once we have it we will be on the way to not just meeting but exceeding our 100 per cent target in the future.

Scottish Renewables is the voice of the renewable energy industry in Scotland.

GordonGillL.jpgNiall Stuart
Niall has been Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, the representative voice of the renewable energy industry in Scotland, since September 2009.
He is responsible for leading the organisation's work to achieve the optimal legislative, regulatory and financial framework to deliver the growth of the renewable energy industry in Scotland.
A member of the First Minister's Energy Advisory Board, Niall co-chairs the Forum for Renewable Energy Development in Scotland (FREDS).
He was previously Press and Government Affairs Manager at the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI), the leading independent economic development network.
Before joining SCDI in October 2007, Niall spent five years at the Federation of Small Businesses, where he ran the Scottish Press and Parliamentary Office, successfully delivering a number of the organisation's key lobbying objectives. Previously he worked for Anne Begg MP at Westminster and in her constituency of Aberdeen South.


Any greener and cleaner future for our planet will require not only major changes in energy production, but also infrastructure and lifestyle. As technology evolves to offer real zero emission solutions to our power needs, so too will our mobility and thinking need to adapt to this brave new world.

Major Renewable Energy Technologies in Scotland

Sunset at Whitelee Wind Farm, the largest onshore wind farm in Europe.
Photo: Scottish Renewables
Marine power harnesses the sea to create electricity. Marine currents hold immense kinetic energy and this can be exploited, such as in tidal power.
Wave energy device by Aquamarine Power, based in Orkney.
Photo: Scottish Renewables
Marine power harnesses the sea to create electricity. Marine currents hold immense kinetic energy and this can be exploited, such as in tidal power.
Hydropower station operated by Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) at Pitlochry.
Photo: Scottish Renewables
Most tidal turbines, or tidal stream generators, look and act relatively similarly to wind turbines. Tidal barrages on the other hand are more like dams, and are constructed along bays or rivers to capture the water flow's energy coming in during the tide cycle.
More generally, wave power generators float semi-submerged on the surface of water as floating, buoy-like turbines. Other designs are connected to the seabed or even totally underwater, and use the force of ocean waves to drive pistons.
Hydropower (or water power) makes electricity via the energy of moving water. In Scotland currents in rivers and lochs generate electricity via the nature flow of the water, while weirs and dams collect water in reservoirs to supply hydropower in times of demand.