New provisional figures released by the Scottish government have shown that Scotland has just scraped under its target to produce the equivalent of 100% of its total demand from renewable energy sources by the end of 2020, accounting for the export and import of electricity to other regions of the United Kingdom.
In 2020, Scotland’s domestic renewable energy sources generated 31.8 terawatt hours, the equivalent of 97.4% of the amount of electricity demanded within the country.
Scotland’s pace of renewable capacity construction has been steady since 2011, but in 2020, only a small amount of renewable energy was installed, likely to have contributed to the production falling just short of the target.
“Scotland’s renewable electricity capacity has shown steady growth between 2009 and 2019 with the average annual capacity increase over 800MW since the end of 2009. However, in 2020 renewable capacity installed was only 47MW up from 2019”, wrote the Scottish industry renewable energy body, Scottish Renewables.
Scotland’s renewable energy generation is comprised mostly of onshore wind power, and houses the bulk of the UK’s land-based wind farms and hydro power. England, in comparison, has a far greater proportion of onshore wind.
Though the data for 2020 will not be added for some time, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)’s ‘Regional Electricity Generation and Supply Timeseries’ shows the change in the proportion of zero carbon energy across the four regions within the United Kingdom since 2004:
Scotland has consistently had the lowest share of fossil generation in its electricity grid for some time, and has seen its share of fossil-free generation increase thanks to the growth of onshore wind power in recent years.
Scotland is a net exporter of electrical energy, with 19.3 terawatt hours exported outside of Scotland in 2020. These exports have been increasing over time, while imports have remained steady, even as the proportion of renewable energy grows in the region.
“The fact that Scotland’s own supply is secure, and its abundant generation of electricity via wind means that Scotland has long been a net exporter of electricity. In 2020, Scotland exported almost 20.4 TWh, equivalent to powering every household in Scotland for 26 months. This had an estimated wholesale value of almost £763 million”, write the Scottish government on their renewable energy data site.
The record comes as Great Britain’s electricity grid recorded its ‘greenest moment’ on record on Easter Monday, with the carbon intensity dropping to 39 grams of CO2 per megawatt hour. 80% of the grid’s power was coming from zero carbon sources (39% wind, 21% solar and 16% nuclear) at that moment.
Great Britain’s #electricity ⚡️grid was the greenest it’s ever been at 1pm yesterday.
Carbon intensity – the measure of CO2 emissions per unit 🍃– dropped to 39 gCO2, the lowest figure on record (breaking the record set last May) 1/2 pic.twitter.com/emVqXOJ6GG
— National Grid ESO (@ng_eso) April 6, 2021
“Scotland’s renewable energy projects are displacing tens of millions of tonnes of carbon every year, employing the equivalent of 17,700 people and bringing enormous socio-economic benefits to communities across the country. Industry and government must continue to work together to address the challenges which exist if we are to fully realise our potential, meet net-zero by 2045 and achieve a just energy transition” Claire Mack, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables said.
The UK will host the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) meeting in November this year, an event likely to draw scrutiny to the changes within the region.