Onshore wind remains pivotal to a net zero future – we cannot afford to forget about it, writes Kevin Cannon, managing associate at law firm Addleshaw Goddard. Scotland generated almost twice the entire country’s domestic power requirements in the first half of this year from wind, powering homes from the Outer Hebrides right through to the south of England, something that has been achieved in just over a decade. Total installed capacity of renewable electricity in Scotland has grown from 3,353 megawatts in 2008 to 11,036 MW last year, with onshore wind currently accounting for 71 per cent of total capacity. Public backing for onshore wind has reached an all-time high – 79 per cent according to new figures from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy – and industry is slowly starting to take note. Last year, Scottish Power became the first major UK energy firm to drop fossil fuels completely worth £702 million. Scotland’s current capacity, paired with growing public demand, has the power to shape the future of electricity generation but there remain challenges to the sector’s continued expansion. The fact that the other Big Six companies haven’t yet followed suit may indicate a few of these challenges, with a dip in the number of planning applications to create further wind power sites stunting the sector’s growth, and the cost to produce and receive renewable electricity, impacting both industry and consumers. The withdrawal of UK government support for onshore wind introduced in 2015 has led to an alarming 94 per cent drop in onshore wind farm planning applications, with developers rightly hesitant to pass increased costs through the supply chain, ending with consumers. The number of jobs in renewable energy dropping by a third in the last year. Thankfully, there are a number of schemes in place to ensure Scotland doesn’t fall behind in the production of renewable energy, including the Scottish Government launching a £3 billion Green Investment Portfolio to bring to market low-carbon projects over the next three years and the UK government’s Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme, which protects consumers from volatile wholesale prices, thus incentivising developers. The recent CfD Allocation Round 3 results saw contracts awarded to six Scottish wind farms, four of which are onshore. The first subsidy-free onshore wind farm also broke ground earlier this month in Dumfries and Galloway, which will ensure zero-carbon electricity at a reduced cost for consumers, further signalling that developers can overcome the hurdle of funding subsidy-free schemes, in this case, offsetting costs by a community share offer. The reality of subsidy-free wind marks a significant step toward realising net zero carbon emissions targets. That said, to encourage development at the scale that is required, there must be improved access to CfDs for onshore wind farms which remain largely excluded from auction frameworks as an “established technology”.
Scotsman 18th Nov 2019 read more »