NEW BOOK REVIEW: Scottish devolution and independence debates on renewable energy policy – Scottish Energy News

A new book on the renewable energy industry in Scotland – ‘Scotland Shows
The Way Forward’** – is due to be published next month.

Authors GEOFF WOOD and Dr. KEITH BAKER of the School of Engineering and the
Built Environment at Glasgow Caledonian University analyse the effects of
Scottish devolution and independence debates on renewable energy policy:


Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-56897-3

The book offers comprehensive coverage of current energy policy in Scotland
focussing on non-fossil fuel energy options: renewables, nuclear power and
energy efficiency.

Covering issues of policy and practice, planning, legislation and
regulation of a range of sustainable energy technologies in the context of
devolved government, key experts explore these issues in terms of the
ongoing Scottish independence debate, Brexit and further devolution in this
vitally important and timely book.

The book emphasises two further distinctive areas: constitutional change
and the role of sub-national authorities in renewable and low carbon energy
policy and practice.

The clear focus on renewable and low carbon energy policy and practice and
sub-national authority level of governance of energy means that it will be
of particular relevance as a case study for those countries either in the
process of deploying renewable and/or low carbon energy technologies or
looking to do so.

The authors discuss the many lessons to be learnt from the Scottish and UK

By providing a critical analysis of Scottish renewable and low carbon
energy policy and practice, this book is invaluable to students,
practitioners and decision-makers interested in renewable and low carbon
energy transitions, energy planning and policy.

A review of the work is published below.

Scotland Shows The Way Forward


Scotland is now generating the equivalent of around 60% of its annual
electricity needs from renewable, mostly wind, and is aiming for 100%, with
new nuclear blocked unilaterally.

So it is a little surprising that there have not been more studies of this
unique initiative.

That’s soon to change with a new book, ‘A critical review of Scottish
Energy Policy’ by a group of Scottish academics edited by Geoff Wood and
Keith Baker, to be published Palgrave MacMillan next

It is a very timely publication, given that, after Brexit, Scotland may
vote to go fully independent. It is already quite independent, with its own
devolved government and a clearly different and very progressive energy
policy. What’s not to like?

Well, not everything is ideal, as this new book explains. But the
overwhelming message is that, despite the endless debate about whether
renewables can work large scale, here’s a country actually doing it.

It’s often the case that Denmark or Germany are use as exemplars of how it
should be done. Scotland has some things in common with both: it’s a small
country like Denmark, but also has an existing nuclear component like Germany.

However, its renewables potential is larger than either and it is making
better progress. Given how much government support has been provided for
renewables in Germany and (until recently) Denmark, that’s quite
surprising. It makes the situation in the rest of the UK look rather pathetic.

That’s not to say there are no critics of Scotland’s renewable energy
programme: they often depict it as foolish or at least of limited
value. Some of the criticism are simply due to disbelief that renewables
like wind energy (now the dominant renewable in Scotland) can work on a
large scale, without massive backup, beyond what is likely to be available.

It is certainly true that the UK government’s decision to abandon the £1
billion Carbon Capture and Storage programme (including the Peterhead
project) removes the potential for a lower carbon approach to continued
fossil fuel use, and arguably would make the use of gas plants for backup
less attractive, given their unabated emissions.

But then high-cost CCS probably wouldn’t have made sense with flexible gas
peaking plants- which would only operate occasionally to back up
renewables. In any case, in addition to hydro pumped storage, and power
imports balanced by exports, there are other low carbon supply/demand
balancing options, including Combined Heat and Power/district heating
networks linked to heat stores and smart grid demand response systems, all
of which Scotland is looking at, as this book notes.

Some critics of course resent the SNPs opposition to nuclear, which they
see as a vital component of a balanced system. The chapter on nuclear in
this book reflects that view and suggests a rethink may be in order – or at
least full consideration of what the phase out of the two remaining
Scottish nuclear plants would imply.

Much of the rest of the book, in effect, offers some ideas for new areas of
development, in addition to wind power (the main one), including chapters
on marine energy (wave and tidal), community energy projects and energy

Scotland has enviable wave and tidal resources and is in the lead globally
in developing them, with many new technologies being under test, and the
start of GW-scale deployment being possible in the 2020s.

However, it has to be said that, apart from the exemplary community energy
programme, so far progress on energy efficiency and green heating has been
quite slow and the book reviews the problems that have been faced.

They are not unique to Scotland: the UK as a whole has been slow to develop
its green heat and efficient energy use strategies. So has much of the EU.
But the potential for energy savings in all sectors is there, as is being
promoted in the EUs new Efficiency First Strategy

Moreover, green heating is moving up the political agenda in most places,
as the problems of meeting heat demand just by using green electricity
become clearer. Solar heating is relatively marginal so far in Scotland,
but it could expand along with heat storage – the heating season there is
long and the cold northern winters can be sunny.

Biomass is another option, including the use of forestry wastes, but there
are limits to how much land can be used for energy crops, even in the
relatively sparcely populated rural areas of Scotland, although as
elsewhere, farm and urban food other wastes can be used as a feed stock for
AD biogas production.

Ambient heat extraction using large-scale heat pumps is also an option, as
is being planned for Glasgow, extracting heat from old flooded mine
workings. So too is geothermal heating, linked perhaps to heat networks and
large heat stores.

Clearly there are many options and some urgent policy and development
issues to be faced, and this book offers a guide to how a devolved, and
possibly independent, Scottish government could address them.

Not all of the issues are addressed fully in this book. Although it sets
the wider scene, it focusses on non-fossil energy options: renewables,
nuclear power and energy efficiency.

So it doesn’t cover fossil fuel issues, CCS briefly apart, and also only
delves briefly into transport issues, focusing on user-behaviour rather
than technology. However, it does take a quite broad view and it’s not
afraid to look at the problems.

Overall it provides an inspiring account of what many see as a brave
attempt to accelerate renewables so that they can meet most energy needs,
while also allowing for continued export of electricity.

That certainly seems a popular idea:

And going further, WWF wants a 50% green energy target set for 2030, with
renewable electricity helping out with heat (40%) and transport (18%), as
well as supplying almost all power, and overall energy demand cut by 20%:

There certainly will be a need for a coherent integrated cross-sector
approach if targets like this are to be met:

But a start has been made, and the Scottish government has now backed the
50% by 2030 energy target:

It won’t be easy, but it seems possible. Though for a very different view
see: It calls for three new nuclear plants.

This article by Dave Elliott first appeared on which provides the latest news and
views on environmental research from around the globe.

His short book on Energy Storage Systems, published in July 2017 as a
Physics World Discovery, is free to read
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