Another “extraordinary month” for renewable energy in Scotland

ERI June 2017
Source: Scottish Renewables (2017) https://www.scottishrenewables.com/sectors/renewables-in-numbers/?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Social%20Post

The month of May showed that renewables can still play their part in providing large amounts of electricity even in summer months. Wind turbines alone provided enough electricity to supply 95% of Scottish homes thanks to windy weather. The 863,495MWh of electricity provided to the grid was an incredible increase of 20% compared to May 2016.

Solar energy was also increasingly able to supply 100% of electricity needs to houses fitted with panels across a number of areas in Scotland. Aberdeen, Dumfries, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Lewick houses fitted with photovoltaic panels benefited from 100% of their average use generated from the sun. Solar hot water panels also provided 90% of household’s average hot water needs in the same Scottish areas.

Across the United Kingdom there was also records broken on the 26th May with the National Grid reported a peak of 8.5GWh over a half hour period at midday. This was almost a quarter of total UK demand.

Scotland continues to increase its renewable energy capacity with an average annual increase of over 660MW since the end of 2008. Total installed renewables capacity sat at 8642GW at the end of 2016 of which the breakdown can be found below. This ever-increasing renewables capacity allows Scotland to reach renewable energy targets and climate change targets whilst still exporting low carbon electricity to its neighbours.

Repowering onshore wind in the Highlands and Islands

wind turbine 16-05-2017

Planning permissions and consents for onshore wind farms in the UK generally require decommissioning and restoration after a 25-year lifetime. With some of the earliest windfarms being built in the early 1990s we are starting to look at what happens next. With proper operations and maintenance, there is no reason that windfarms can’t operate past this lifetime, especially if they’re receiving ROC payments.

It is important if we want to continue to decarbonise the economy that these existing consented sites continue to produce low carbon electricity and this is represented in Scottish Planning Policy:

‘Proposals to repower existing wind farms which are already in suitable sites where environmental and other impacts have been shown to be capable of mitigation can help to maintain or enhance installed capacity, underpinning renewable energy generation targets. The current use of the site as a wind farm will be a material consideration in any such proposals.’

We are now coming to a stage where many of the first windfarm sites using small clusters of 600KW turbines at around 70m in tip height are coming to the end of their operational lifetime. In many cases, and in eventually in all cases it will be more economic to “repower” the site.

There are numerous benefits in utilising a site, which is already powered: they are grid connected, planned for and there’s years of real data that can inform new design. There can be some difficulties if bases needed replaced or grid connection needs upgraded, the key however is that the sites have the planning permissions in place, if not for larger turbines.

Some sites might even be economically viable to repower before the 25-year lifetime is achieved due to the financial performance of the site and the rapid evolution and increase in wind turbine size. The progress in the last 20 years has been phenomenal with prices tumbling as hub height increases and economies of scale are seen.

There are many options for repowering sites such as maintaining the grid connection capacity by increasing turbine size but lowering numbers. Some sites may wish to maintain turbine numbers but increase the size and capacity but how do these large turbines affect the visual requirements of the area? Sometimes few larger turbines are deemed more acceptable.

Although many sites will not be considered for repowering before the mid-2020s the procedures need to be put in place now and trialled on some of the earliest Highland wind farms. Given the time it has taken to consent these original windfarms there can’t be considerable downtime between decommissioning and repowering considering the ambitious decarbonisation targets the Scottish Government has set.

In an ideal world, we would move to planning for perpetuity.

Contracts for difference for new onshore wind?

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After the 2015 Conservative manifesto pledge to “end any new public subsidy” for onshore wind farms, developers have been locked out of the Contracts for Difference (CfD) framework*.  New research reveals however that ministers could allow onshore wind bid on new contracts without contradicting its previous pledge to end all new subsidies.

The report** produced by industry experts Baringa Partners, commissioned by industry body Scottish Renewables, states that by allowing developers to bid in the first round of the auction, the industry could deliver an extra 1GW of capacity in the UK at the hugely competitive price of £49.40 per MWh. This is around half of the strike price agreed by the UK Government for Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant, after being adjusted for inflation.

Since the 2015 subsidy ending announcement there has been a marked slowdown in the rate of development. Neil Stuart, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables said:

“Some companies are continuing to look at projects, but it is very difficult to see them going ahead without some sort of intervention,”

“If you want to deliver onshore wind capacity at a scale, which will make a meaningful contribution to the UK’s work to meet climate change targets and secondly keep bills down for consumers then you will need a CfD framework.”

Bidding on the first round of the CfD auction would not represent a subsidy as more money would return to the consumer over the last two thirds of the contract than the limited top up in the first third as the wholesale price of electricity increases. This would represent an overall saving for consumers.

The report also highlights the incredible reductions in the costs of renewables, particularly onshore wind, around the world. The decreasing price of turbines and auction mechanisms to ensure competition have seen the price tumble worldwide. The government can still now plan an important role in offering a low-risk route to market for subsidy free onshore wind.

The report that allows the UK Government to provide subsidy free support to onshore wind comes after a Conservative thinktank Bright Blue published a new survey*** claiming that the majority of Tory voters actually support on shore wind.

*The CfD mechanism is in place to stabilise revenue and cost for developers, thereby lowering the cost of capital and in turn minimises the cost of energy.

** https://www.scottishrenewables.com/publications/baringa-sr-analysis-potential-outcome-pot-1-cfd-/

*** http://www.brightblue.org.uk/images/Green%20conservatives%20polling%20report%20Final.pdf

GREBE identifies technologies which can be transferred from areas of best practice to areas where renewable energy uptake is low

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The Northern Periphery & Arctic (NPA) Programme area is undoubtedly rich in many renewable energy resources. However the form and extent of these resources vary considerably throughout the region. While these differences may be clear at national levels they also exist at more local levels as well and, as a result, areas within the NPA region will have very different technological requirements for the effective utilisation of renewable energy resources.  The aim of Work Package 5 is to link the appropriate renewable energy technologies to the available resources and corresponding demand, for every partner region participating in the GREBE.  This work package is led by Scotlands Environmental Research Institute (ERI), which is part of the University of Highlands & Islands.

The first step towards successful achievement of the objective was the 5.1 “Report identifying technologies which can be transferred from areas of best practice to areas where renewable energy uptake is low”.  This report lays the foundation for linking the appropriate renewable energy (RE) technology to the specific locality, through careful analysis of the input provided by partner regions, together with, identification of similarities and transferable solutions from one partner to another.

The main aim of this report is to inform the other activities in this work package by identifying key areas and technologies with the potential to generate new business models, in areas where renewable energy is less developed.    The report wishes to establish transferability of renewable energy technologies from areas of best practice to areas where RE uptake is low.  In order to ensure the appropriate level of coverage across all relevant technologies and key areas, all partners provided input for their specific region regarding:

  • Areas where non-renewable resources are meeting energy requirements, or where emerging businesses require new energy sources and are considering fossil fuel based energy systems.
  • Relevant Renewable Energy (RE) technologies and renewable integration enabling technologies relevant to the region, including the corresponding risk and market penetration levels.

Areas were separated in three different clusters – sectors, industries and geographic areas. As anticipated, there were recurrent key areas in the feedback from the partners across the NPA Region. The commonalities across the feedback from all partners, substantiates the fact that despite the geographical differences, the NPA region is facing similar challenges, which can be best overcome and realised by transnational cooperation. After a careful review of the individual partner feedback, recurrent areas across regions were pinpointed.  This generated a set of preliminary findings on transferable solutions from partners in which, areas of best practice integration of renewables where identified, to similar areas in other partner regions, where the uptake of renewables is low.

The second objective of the report was to identify the relevant RE technologies and renewable integration enabling technologies applicable to every partner region, including the equivalent risk and market penetration levels. A similar approach, as with the areas, was taken.  A review of the available technologies (the corresponding market penetration and risk) was undertaken, for every partner, individually. This led to the assembly of preliminary findings on RE technology transferable solutions, from regions where a given RE technology has high market penetration and low risk, to regions, where the same RE technology has low market penetration and high risk.  An in-depth analysis of the examined RE technologies, will be presented in our next report ‘A Collection of Case Studies across partner regions, accompanied by technology videos and advice notes’.

The finding of the report can be found on the Project GREBE website (http://grebeproject.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/GREBE-Report-identifying-transferable-renewable-energy-technologies-February-2017.pdf )

The completion of the objectives set in the report, assist us in defining the parameters, technologies, areas and demand, which are all incorporated in the final product of Work Package 5 – the Renewable Energy Resource assessment (RERA) Toolkit.

GREBE Policy Workshops in 2017

Finland Policy workshop
Michael Doran of Action Renewables

Action Renewables is the lead partner for Work Package 3 on Policy and Funding Mechanisms, within the GREBE project.   Part of this work package is to organise policy workshops in each partner region. To date Action Renewables has participated in five policy workshops.  Since the start of 2017, there have been three workshops in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Finland.  The purpose of these workshops is to involve and support stakeholders within the renewable energy sector.

During the workshops we discuss the advantages / disadvantages of local policies for that area and discuss how they can be improved to help the economy. The policy workshops will involve representatives of relevant bodies and Government departments that set the renewable energy policy agendas.  Each policy workshop has been different.  The reason for this, the conditions within each country are different and they are different policies.  All of the policy workshops were chaired by Michael Doran and Mark Corrigan of Action Renewables.   Our Norwegian partner Narvik Science Park which hold a policy workshop in April and it is our intention all will be completed before June 2017. We will then have a list of potential new policy mechanisms which will support different partner regions.

Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland policy workshop was hosted by South West College at their Dungannon campus on the 11th January.   For this workshop we had 10 representatives, who came from different sectors throughout Northern Ireland, including the Department of Environment, Invest NI, Fermanagh Omagh District Council, Fermanagh Enterprise and the Ulster Farmers Union.

This policy workshop focussed on the renewable energy industry in Northern Ireland and the lack of new policy development, and how this will have an impact on the economy.  Northern Ireland will have no policy supports for the sector after the 31st of March 2017.

Scotland

Action Renewables chaired the Scotland policy workshop on the 26th January.  This workshop was organised by the University of Highlands & Islands and was held in Inverness.   For this policy workshop, we had the privilege of four guest speakers

  • HWenergy provided an “Overview of current renewable energy policies and constraints”,
  • Scottish Enterprise on “The solutions that exist within Highland & Island Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise”,
  • Local Energy Scotland, on “Community participation in RE” and
  • Community Energy Scotland on “Communities constrained by the existing policies”

Scotland are very advanced on policies that support the renewable energy sector.  To date Scotland have 18 policy mechanisms, which support the sector and is a popular area for wind and hydro.  Many of their support mechanisms are for SMEs looking to enter the renewable energy industry.

Finland

Finlands policy workshop took place in Joensuu on the 9th February.   Finland is mainly focused on its forestry sector, so therefore biomass is their main focus.  At the policy workshop we had 12 participants from a variety of different sectors. We also had the honour of the following guest speakers:

  • Regional Council of North Karelia – Presenter Anniina Kontiokorpi outlined how they are preparing an implementation plan (roadmap) for North Karelia to achieve ambitious aims established in their Climate and Energy Program.
  • Mayor Asko Saatsi from the City of Nurmes – In Nurmes, bioenergy projects (bio refineries) are essential part of local development strategy.
  • Mika Juvonen, CEO/Bio10 Ltd. – Mika Juvonen has established organic waste treatment/biogas plant in Kitee.  He has been actively informing policies and been able to reduce barriers identified in sector.

New Norway – Scotland electricity cable proposed

nsp-24-02-2017

The North Connect Consortium plans to apply for a Norwegian licence to the Norwegian energy ministry for its planned interconnector between Sima in Norway and Peterhead in Scotland. The cable would make it possible to export the large electricity surplus in Norway and to import wind power from Scotland to Norway. It is estimated that the net annual power exports from Norway could be between 5-9 TWh.  

Industrial relationship

NorthConnect is a project company owned by four partners in Norway and Sweden. The companys directive is to plan, build and operate an cable interconnector between Norway and the UK. The project is now preparing for an application to the regulator for a financial arrangement which governs revenues on the 650km interconnector. The NorthConnect partners strongly feel that the project offers good value to the UK consumer and once built would help forge a strong complementary industrial relationship between Scotland’s world class wind sector and Norway’s hydro capacity.

On the Scottish side of the project, the development team is now preparing a planning application for subsea infrastructure works and near shore connections on the Aberdeenshire coast. These offshore works, if consented by Scottish Ministers, would hook up with the already consented onshore electricity converter station near Boddam and Longhaven.

Inclusion of a fibre-optic cable

The NorthConnect consortium is also assessing the feasibility of laying a fibre optic broadband link, alongside the power cable, to connect the north east of Scotland and Norway.

NorthConnect has investigated the inclusion of a repeaterless fibre-optic data cable in the project, and initial findings show it will be technically feasible and very cost-effective when combined with the power cable design, manufacture and subsea installation. The commercial aspects are being examined further, but NorthConnect has a unique geographic advantage where it meets the Norwegian and UK coastlines, crossing strong, existing fibre-optic links.This will also provide a significant opportunity to Norway and Scotland for the development of data-centres.

EU – Network Development plan

NorthConnect has been included in the EU’s 10 year Network Plan and ranked among the most important projects with PCI (Project of Common Interest) status for Socio-Economic welfare, CO2 reduction and integration of renewables across Europe.

The projects are ranked and scored across a number of technical, environmental and economic criteria, and NorthConnect shows up as one of the highest rated projects in Europe for Socio-Economic Welfare, CO2 Reduction and Integration of Renewables. A number of other independent studies over the past 3 years have also shown very high welfare value, carbon savings and renewables facilitation for up to 4.5 Gigawatts of interconnection between Great Britain and Norway.

The rumours are true – Norway and Scotland have an affair !

Scotland sets 50% renewable energy target

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The Scottish Government has followed a world leading climate change target of cutting 66% of emissions by 2020 with a hugely ambitious renewable energy target – that 50% of all energy will be met by renewables by 2030.

The announcement was made at the end of January with the launch of the draft Scottish Energy strategy that aims to build on the strengths of the Scottish renewable energy sector and reduce emissions for 2050.

Paul Wheelhouse, the Energy Minister, has said that he hopes the “document stimulates debate about the energy challenges in Scotland and the policies needed to meet the aspirations of the people of Scotland to deliver a secure, sustainable energy future for all, in the best interests of our communities, economy and environment.”

The draft plan has a number of proposals such as a Scottish government-owned energy company with responsibility for helping local and community energy projects grow. It also sets out the ambition that Scotland will become the first place in the UK where onshore wind can thrive without subsidy.

Scottish Renewables, the representative body of the Scottish renewable sector, said the proposals are a “landmark moment in Scotland’s transition to a low-carbon economy”.

Jenny Hogan, director of policy at Scottish Renewables, said: “The new draft strategy shows that Scotland is serious about building on the fantastic progress made in renewable power over the past decade and maintaining our position as a global leader in green energy.

“Setting a new target for renewables to deliver half of our energy needs by 2030 sends a strong signal that renewable energy will be at the heart of Scotland’s economy and is key to meeting our climate change targets at lowest cost.

The strategy sets out a “renewed focus” on stalled efforts for energy efficiency with the hugely ambitious target of making Scotland’s buildings near zero carbon by 2050. It also seeks out views on alternative financial models for supporting low carbon technologies and services such as green bonds.

The Scottish Government has been proud of its progress but now looks at addressing challenging areas with this draft Energy Plan such as low-carbon heat, and transport. Opposition parties have welcomed the commitment but have stated that the challenge is in the implementation of energy policy.