Select Committee on Environmental Audit Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Annex A


  A recent study by Garrad Hassan for the Scottish Executive identified the magnitude of potential renewable energy resources across Scotland. The study used up-to-date information on each renewable resource, and modelled it against planning, environmental, economic and technical constraints. It looked at the feasible potential within such constraints up to year 2010 and also 2025.

  The report analyses all the main opportunities and points to the massive potential available in Scotland across a range of technologies. The study indicates that nearly 60GW of new renewable energy generating capacity could be available on and offshore in Scotland at under 7p per unit by 2010 (including local grid connection costs but not grid strengthening costs). The main renewable energy opportunities lie in the longer term with offshore developments of wave and tidal stream power, with offshore wind also having a role to play. However, these very promising options are not yet ready for full commercial development, either in their technology or their price competitiveness. A major contribution in the short or medium term is forecast for onshore wind, as the technology that is market-ready and most price-competitive for making a major contribution now.


  Garrad Hassan identifies an 11.5GW capacity for onshore wind available at under 3p per unit. The report estimates that this resource is available within 30 per cent of Scotland's land area which is not environmentally designated in one way or another, and in fact could occupy only around two per cent of that area. However, local transmission constraints limit this resource to 3.1-3.4 GW, with network modifications or upgrades required to accommodate additional capacity. This means that the Scottish Executives objective of 18 per cent of electricity by 2010 by increased renewables generation could be achieved largely through onshore wind, which would require around 1GW or new capacity.

  Windfarms, however, have very significant visual and landscape impacts. Ther is also potential for biodiversity impacts, but usually these can be avoided by careful siting. For onshore wind, strategic guidance is most urgently needed, to ensure that the planning system guides development towards those landscapes best able to accommodate such development, thus safeguarding the high values attaching to many Scottish landscapes, not least as a tourism asset and an attraction to potential inward investors. In this regard we are pleased to note that the encouragement we have given to exploration of one or more locations for very large windfarms, which might meet a significant proportion of Government's 2010 targets, has met with a positive industry response.

  Given the impending scale of renewable energy developments expected, SNH considers that with wind farms there is still an opportunity to establish a more planned approach, in order to guide wind energy development to those areas where it can be developed with least impact on important natural heritage interests. SNH is in the process of identifying the natural heritage sensitivities that it considers should be addressed by councils in planning positively for wind energy.

  Given the very dynamic of renewable development, SNH will be keeping the policy line under close review and more detailed strategic and locational guidance on other forms of renewable energy, particularly offshore wind and other marine energy, is likely. At present, the scale of demand from outwith Scotland is not yet clear, and there may well, in due course, be market demand for renewables from energy suppliers beyond Scotland. This may lead, in due course, to the need for a more fundamental review of the limits of capacity for renewable energy development within Scotland to meet needs from elsewhere, having regard for the need to maintain the overall quality of our natural heritage.


  The major opportunities for large-scale hydro development were developed in the 1950s and 1960s. Most remaining opportunities offering significant water flow and head are in areas, which would be likely to be regarded as sensitive on the basis of their landscape or recreational amenity. While we consider there is likely to be significant scope for further sensitively designed small-scale hydro development in Scotland, the scope for further large-scale development is likely to be very limited. Refurbishment of existing hydro schemes could deliver substantial additional capacity. Further dialogue with the industry and potential developers is required to improve knowledge of the current situation.


  There is a particular need to consider the potential for offshore forms of renewable energy. Garrad Hassan note there is a very large potential energy resource for marine technologies, but the need for technological development and grid capacity currently limit exploitation.

  Appropriately sited offshore windfarms may impact less on Scotland's landscapes and seascapes than terrestrial windfarms, albeit at a higher development cost. It should be noted, however, that the Scottish coast is very diverse and that some stretches are likely to be much less suitable than others. We are currently assessing proposals for Scotland's first offshore wind farm in the Solway Firth, which is in effect an estuarial, rather than a tidal marine, site. Offshore wave energy and tidal stream energy may have the potential to provide very substantial quantities of energy with relatively few environmental impacts; though impacts on marine wildlife and environmental risks from navigation hazards will have to be taken into account. We have welcomed the selection of a European Marine Energy Test area in Orkney, subject to respect for the landscapes of the National Scenic Area within which part of the test area lies.

  The development of appropriate technologies, the identification of appropriate locations and the exploration of the natural heritage impacts of offshore wind, wave and tidal energy developments need to be carefully considered. SNH will be therefore developing policy and evaluation frameworks in relation to the new and evolving technologies of off shore wind, wave and tidal stream.


  There would appear to be considerable scope for the development of biomass schemes based either on the extensive woodland resource in Scotland or on new coppice woodland established on former agricultural land. It is important though that assessment of climate benefits of schemes take account of harvesting and transport requirements and that crop management regimes are not such as to introduce new land pollutants.


  We draw attention to the conclusion in the EC Green Paper on energy (``Towards a European Strategy for the security of energy supply") that the biofuel market is constrained by the greater cost, pre-tax, of biofuel than oil, and that a relatively modest reduction in excise duty for biofuels could stimulate a significant level of use, as a renewable transport fuel.

  Use of hydrogen as a transport fuel would open up the potential for renewable energy resources in locations not readily accessible to the grid distribution system to produce bottled hydrogen for physical distribution. Such a process is potentially of considerable economic importance to areas of Scotland such as the Western and Northern Isles, as well as providing a transport fuel with near-zero carbon emissions. We endorse the importance of research and investment in developing the potential for this technology.

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