Questions have been raised over the Scottish Government’s green energy policy after official figures showed the total amount of power generated from renewable sources fell last year.
Conservationists, big business and opposition politicians all called for more honesty on what wind farms could realistically achieve following the publication of figures by the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
While the figures showed the total amount of electricity generated by wind and hydro power schemes in Scotland fell last year, Scottish ministers and the renewables industry body said the DECC report strengthened their position.
The drop in hydro power is explained by exceptionally dry weather in 2010. But, despite a sharp increase in the number of wind farms installed – wind and wave energy sites rose from 135 in 2009 to 339 last year, mostly because of wind development – there was only a 6% increase in the amount of power produced.
Andrew Dyce, policy executive at CBI Scotland, said last night: “Green energy technologies have great potential and represent a fantastic opportunity for innovative Scottish businesses, but these figures suggest that we must be cautious about relying on them too heavily for our current energy needs.
“What Scotland requires is a well-rounded energy mix; one that takes advantage of our abundant natural resources, but which also provides a source of constant, reliable and affordable electricity for businesses.”
Helen McDade, head of policy for the John Muir Trust, the wild land charity which is concerned about wind farms appearing in some of Scotland’s wilderness areas, said the DECC’s latest figures demonstrated the variability in wind generation.
She said: “An honest debate about how to go forward is needed instead of hot air from industry. Public money should go preferentially towards saving energy through efficiency and conservation, and then the UK needs to have a mix of sources for electricity.
“If the UK’s energy policy puts too much faith in wind farms, it will not only lead to a loss of wild landscapes, it will be asking them to do the impossible. No matter how many turbines are built, if there is no wind then there is no power.”
Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray echoed this sentiment, saying: “It is not good enough for the SNP Government to simply cross its fingers and hope it is breezy in 2020.”
However, a Scottish Government spokesman said the DECC report had shown every renewable technology increased its output in Scotland in 2010 other than hydro, which was because it was the driest year since 2003.
“Just this week, more up-to-date figures showed renewables generation has increased significantly in 2011, with UK onshore wind energy generation up 111% on the same period last year and hydro up by 74%.
“This comes at the end of a week when Nobel Laureate Al Gore lauded Scotland for its leadership and we see yet more jobs and investments in our fast-growing clean green energy sector.”
Niall Stuart, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, said the figures showed even in an exceptionally dry and calm year, renewable sources provided more than 30% of electricity consumed in Scotland.
“This reinforces that the sector is now a major part of our energy mix, and a significant part of our economy.”
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