Here at Precise HQ, there was a moment recently when our shared love for Scotland was threatened as it tried to lure Martin O’Neill away from my beloved Northern Ireland. But all has been restored thanks to that failing, and — probably of greater relevance to you — the country making a huge push to become a European leader in renewables.
This is being driven by a newly published roadmap, “Renewables Scotland 2030,” the ambition of which is inversely proportional to the title of said paper.
Developed by engineer Craig Berry for the think tank Common Weal, it claims UK energy policies have systematically failed Scotland since 1980. It points to the fact that the six largest energy companies have seen a profit margin rise of just under 5 percent in the last two years. But of more concern is the fact that almost 35 percent of families (900,000 households) are facing fuel poverty. Since 2017, each of the Big Six energy companies have increased prices by around 10%.
Berry wrote an article on his paper, in which he makes a case for Scotland to receive urgent powers on energy policy to set up a world-leading energy industry. “Scotland’s North Sea oil industry is a missed opportunity, with the UK government favouring privatisation over a more Norwegian approach which has been shown to be successful,” Barry states in the article. “What Scotland must focus on now is capturing the wealth of renewables, of which it has the potential to be a world leader.”
However Barry calls out the “business as usual” model of privately owned energy companies and makes a bold argument: that Scotland needs to have a national energy company that is controlled at municipal levels.
He wants it to have five key objectives:
• Reduce, and one day eliminate, fuel poverty
• Meet at least 75 percent of fuel demand with renewable energy
• Decentralize the energy supply
• Invest in and advance research and development in environmentally conscious technologies
• Use a not-for-profit approach to ensure that these green efforts yield social results.
According to Berry, achieving this would position Scotland as a world leader in renewables by 2030.
“Municipalisation is critical in creating a transformation to a sustainable energy system base on energy efficiency and renewable energies,” he says in the paper. “Creating a municipal energy company allows strong governance in the local energy market. The return for each municipality running its own local utility is significant when the focus is on affordable energy as opposed to increasing returns.”
By having a national company, Scotland would be able to work with the NorthConnect project to provide the country with a way of exporting its additional resources to mainland Europe. Previously SSE was involved in this group, but the Norwegian government was not willing to consider the interconnector project if it would be owned by a private company in the UK.
The paper says that moving in this direction “would be inspired by Germany’s turn towards municipalisation, with 72 municipal energy companies established since the 1990s, and the Nordic system which has emphasised collective learning and knowledge formation through a collectivist approach.”
Along with the national energy company, he would see a national battery technology innovation centre established to deliver new developments in this field. There are two systems in use in Scotland already which enable renewable sources to provide energy — in both Orkney and the Isle of Eigg — and should these be exported, Berry argues, the cost of renewable energy could be reduced for all Scottish consumers.
The country is ambitious and hungry for more green power. It’s already working toward the 2020 goal of having 100 percent of electricity from renewable sources, and declared recently that by 2032 traditional-fuel passenger vehicles will have been phased out.
As the industry continues to employ more people and generate billions in turnover, support will move in the right direction. Forbes is now asking: “When will renewables become the dominant source of energy?” The Lloyd’s Register 2018 Technology Radar says the UK will achieve grid parity for wind power by 2024.
When BP, Total and Shell return to the wind and solar sectors they previously abandoned, you know we’re on the cusp on something great.
Which is, happily, not the case for Scotland’s national football team. #handsoffmartin
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