Scotland has 11 gigawatts of offshore energy—wind, waves and tides—in the pipeline for 2020, according to Scottish Renewables Director of Policy Jenny Hogan. That’s a lot. And to make sure it all makes it through, a new task-force report to First Minister Alex Salmond recommends a number of steps that officials hope will speed and smooth the siting, approval and development process.
“Scotland’s distinct approach to sectoral marine planning has already provided clarity for developers,” Salmond said upon receiving the report. “By ensuring that government, developers and others get things right at the strategic planning and earliest licensing stages we can cut the time and resource spent on inappropriate developments and allow a greater focus on those areas with the best opportunities to harness resources sustainably.”
Among the report’s recommendations was the creation of a national database of marine survey data, with information shared between the Department of Energy and Climate Chance, the Crown Estate and developers in order to reduce duplication and minimize cost and time. The report also called for “mandatory multilateral consultation” with communities and “other sea users”—including fisheries, shipping and recreational interests—as early as possible in the process.
At least one major environmental group welcomed the report. “The recommendations from the task force are very helpful in making sure the government and industry bring together all the available information on the marine environment, and engage early with stakeholders, to make the best possible decisions,” Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland, said in a statement. “With careful planning we can harness Scotland’s wave and tidal energy to help cut our climate emissions, while safeguarding the nation’s tremendous marine environment.”
Despite that, renewable energy skeptics saw the report—authored by a panel that included government officials and power developers—as a bid by the pro-renewables government to run roughshod over potential objections to offshore energy development.
Struan Stevenson, a Scottish Conservative member of the European Parliament, said the report “simply shows that the government is prepared to pay lip-service to the wishes of local people objecting to marine wind farms, while encouraging the renewables industry to make a killing in the shortest time possible.” Stevenson said the process envisioned would see Scotland’s “world-renowned seascapes transformed into vast, rusting electricity factories that destroy tourism, fisheries and marine habitats, while driving Scottish households relentlessly into fuel poverty.”
This is a view sort of shared by one Donald Trump as well.
Scotland right now meets the equivalent of about 30 percent of its electricity demand and nearly 3 percent of heat from renewable sources, according to a 2011 government report [PDF]. The country has committed to sourcing an equivalent of 100 percent of electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020, along with at least 11% renewable heat, and is counting on its abundant offshore resources to play a leading role. Scotland says it possesses 25 percent of European offshore wind power, 25 percent of EU tidal power and 10 percent of EU wave power.