Microgeneration in Scotland is getting increasing attention, with last Friday's announcement that British Gas had signed a deal with Glasgow-based company Windsave to sell 1kW roof-mounted wind turbines to consumers in Scotland. While insufficient to power a typical home completely, it is enough to "cut annual electricity bills by up to a third and reduce CO2 emissions by half a tonne per annum." Definitely welcome news, but it turns out that it's just the latest in a series of home and local generation options for residents of Scotland -- and there's been a 14-fold increase in the number of such projects over the last five years.
The figures show that renewable devices are being installed in schools, businesses, ferry terminals and care homes across Scotland, although the majority are in the Highlands and Islands. The Highlands will have a total of 37 such projects by the end of this year, with biomass and wind the most popular sources of energy.
In Orkney, where there are 33 projects, turbines and heat pumps make up the majority of renewable devices installed, while in the Western Isles, solar panels are the most popular, making up nearly 40% of the total number installed.
The UK government has posted modest targets of having 10% of the nation's electricity coming from renewables by 2010, and 20% by 2020. But renewables already make up 13% of Scotland's electricity generation, and the Scottish Executive is now considering a goal of 40% of Scottish electricity coming from renewables by 2020. As the map above shows (from the Scottish Renewables website), Scotland's renewable power portfolio includes a wide range of sources -- hydro, wind, solar (largely for heating), wave and tidal -- all of which would contribute to getting to 40% renewable. The caveat to this seemingly ambitious target is that only about a fifth of Scotland's energy use is in the form of electricity; the remaining 80% is fuel for heating and transport.
How can Scotland improve that part of the equation? We cover the transport end of things on a regular basis at WorldChanging; it's sufficient to say here that it's a problem for which lots of people are working on solutions. For heating, the solutions are likely not in making the technologies for heat production more efficient, but in improving the insulation properties of buildings so as to require less heating to begin with. Canada's R-2000 standard is a good example of how widely-accepted building practices can substantially reduce the energy requirements of a single-family home. Homes built to the R-2000 spec must use at least 30% less power than comparable non-R-2000 homes, and typically use about a third of the energy of a standard 1950s house. Looking further out, the German "One Liter House" initiative, which seeks to cut heating-related home energy use by 95%, has already resulted in some amazing innovations in building materials.
Scotland is well-positioned to take the lead in reducing energy use in Europe. The 40% renewable electricity goal is likely to turn out to be modest in comparison to what's actually possible -- the recent report from the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University noted that the UK as a whole, instead of getting to 20% renewable by 2020, could easily get to 50-75% renewable with current technology. As many of the efficiency improvements to reduce heating costs would also reduce electricity consumption, Scotland may well be able to get close to 100% renewable in its electricity generation by 2025 -- with sufficiently visionary leadership. Add in hyper-efficient cars and building standards meant to reduce heating costs multi-fold, and Scotland may well end up the first society to move from having an ecological footprint to having an ecological handprint -- returning more to nature than they take.
(Via Alt-Energy Blog)
We've just held the World Renewable Energy Congress here in Aberdeen; unfortunately I couldn't get in - £150 for a student ticket! However I just thought I'd better say 'Don't hold your breath!'. There is an awful lot of Nimbyism about wind turbines here - along with newspaper stories telling people that they're useless and inefficient (even my Dad asked me if they were true the other day!). And there's a big class divide here - along with which goes correspending contrasts in knowledge and apathy. I have friends who live in huge skyscrapers down at the beach and I discovered the other day that they have no insulation of any sort! So the poorest are spending loads on electricity and the council wont pay the large sums of money to insulate them - despite the fact it would probably save them cash in the long term!
What with my uni (Aberdeen) refusing to buy only renewable electricity, I have to say I'm somewhat sceptical! (Though we have just elected Scotland's first Green MSP as our rector, so who knows).
I just hope the Scottish Parliament will put enough money into wave power (the Sea Snail's an interesting development) that we can ever acheive sustainability - selling the Pelamis to Portugal is a good first step!