Energy bills have more than doubled in the last 8 years – if this trend continues bills could reach £1,582 a year by 2015 and £2,766 by 2018. But almost six in ten people (59%) say that energy will become unaffordable in the UK if the average bill hits £1,500 a year, with the average household bill today already £1,252 a year.Yet the increasing reliance on “green energies” in the United Kingdom, and particularly Scotland, are already recognized as leading to major current and future cost increases, with consequent impacts on the strength of the economies that they support.
The growth of renewable energy in Scotland has been remarkable over the past decade, and has received consistent support to grow beyond the current levels. The major growth has been in the use of wind turbines, which – as I saw in a recent trip to the UK, are now more prevalent than ever. (And, more encouragingly, were also turning in greater proportion than I had seen in the past).
Current plans and projections would increase capacity from the roughly 4.4 GW shown above to a total of 28.8 GW being possible with pipeline and projected other projects. And in 2010 Scottish turbines produced more power from turbines than from hydro power for the first time.
Figure 3. Scottish electricity from renewables by source (Scottish Government)
Scottish Government )
The Institution’s findings suggest that the original renewable energy target split for Scotland of 50% electricity, 11% heat and 11% energy for transport, making the overall 20%, and subsequent revision of the electricity generation target to 100%, did not appear to be supported by a rigorous engineering analysis of what is physically required to achieve a successful outcome in the timescale available.
During the research for this report, First Minister Alex Salmond announced that the Scottish Government had increased the overall percentage target for energy from renewable sources to 30% by 2020. In light of this report’s analysis, this aspirational target appears to represent an ambition that cannot be justified from an engineering perspective.The Scottish Government has responded, in part, by emphasizing the goal of reducing energy consumption in the country by 12% by the year 2020. Yet significantly raising energy costs and demanding that society reduce demand are not obvious ways of immediately stimulating economies to return to national prosperity. About 750 million British pounds (BP) ($480 million) worth of power came on line in 2011, but the investment required to meet targets in the future will be much higher. The estimated cost for the next 17 GW of capacity is $70 billion (46 billion BP). The Scottish GNP runs around $225 billion (145 billion BP) and there is increasing question over the ability of the country to be able to attract the funding needed to achieve its targets.