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Experts warn 100% green energy plan is unrealistic

The Scottish Government’s goal to generate 100% of the country’s energy needs from green sources by 2020 is unrealistic, unachievable and not in the best interests of energy consumers, according to a new report.

Within nine years only 39% of Scotland’s electricity generation will be from renewable sources such as wind, wave and tidal power, including energy for export, Inverness-based Mackay Consultants has warned.

The prediction was denied by the Scottish Government, which stressed the real target is for Scotland to generate twice what is needed to meet all our energy demands, with 100% from renewables and the same again from other established sources.

First Minister Alex Salmond has insisted the commitment is achievable and will help to re-industrialise Scotland with 130,000 jobs in the renewable and low-carbon energy sector in the next nine years.

However, economist Tony Mackay, lead author of Prospects for Scotland’s Energy Industries 2011-20, questioned the objectivity of some research which had fed into this Government thinking, from the Scottish Government itself and industry body Scottish Renewables.

He said: “The general standard of those reports has been very poor and in many cases very biased.”

The Mackay report gives detailed forecasts of energy production and consumption in Scotland to 2020, predicting production will fall by 37% over the decade because of declines in North Sea oil and gas output. In contrast hydro, wind and other renewables production is forecast to increase by 57%.

Mr Mackay cites the North Sea oil and gas industry accounting for 93% of the industries’ production in 2010 and other industries such as wind energy and coal only 7%. “Those percentages will change little over the next decade, despite declining North Sea oil and gas production from fields in Scottish waters,” he added.

He argues that the electricity industry accounted for only 18% of final energy consumption in 2010, lower than the 42% share for petroleum products – mainly petrol and diesel for transport – and the 37% for natural gas – mainly for heating. He concludes: “It is difficult to understand why electricity generation is such a high priority.”

The study predicts the energy industries will invest nearly £67 billion on capital expenditure in Scotland in the decade to 2020, but the vast bulk will be on oil and gas, not wind, wave or tidal. It says: “Peak investment is predicted to be £8.6bn in both 2012 and 2013, falling to £4.3bn in 2020. The oil industry is expected to account for about 48% of the latter total, gas 21%, wind energy 17%, coal 6%, marine energy 2% and others 6%.”

However, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “This analysis is wrong. Scotland already produces more than one-quarter of electricity from renewables and we have enough renewables capacity installed, under construction or consented to provide almost 60% of our electricity needs.

“By 2020, Scotland will be generating double the amount of electricity we need, with additional electricity generation met by clean energy plants progressively fitted with carbon capture and storage technology.”

Niall Stewart, chief executive of Scottish Renewables said “We stand by all our research. The industry is very confident these targets are achievable and indeed there is already more than enough in the pipeline.”