Our Head of Planning & Development, Aedán Smith, discusses the push for renewables in Scotland and our position on wind energy.
Another day, another political debate. Are Scotland’s renewable energy targets achievable? That’s the question being asked by the Energy Committee at the Scottish Parliament. You’ll be forgiven for thinking that sounds dull but, I can assure you, this is an exciting opportunity to ensure the environment is firmly at the heart of the Scotland’s renewables revolution.
Today, alongside colleagues from other leading NGOs, I had the opportunity to put our views directly to MSPs who are leading the inquiry into the Scottish Government’s ambitious target of generating the equivalent of 100% of Scotland’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020 (the important word here being equivalent since we will generate an additional 100% equivalent from non-renewable power sources, but more on that another day). Amongst the arguments over jobs and economic growth it’s good to remind ourselves - and our elected representatives - why all this fuss about renewables is happening in the first place. So, to cut a very long story short, if we’re going to tackle climate change and reduce the impacts on people and wildlife then we need to change to the way we live our modern lives, and that includes drastic changes to the way we generate energy.
The push for renewables in Scotland is proving fruitful with significant numbers of wind farms either in operation, construction, or granted consent. Evidence seems to be stacking up favourably suggesting the 100% target could be met or exceeded but, as always, the devil is in the detail, and here’s the thing: for Scotland to truly be a world leader in renewable energy, we must ensure that the most important places for wildlife are not damaged by development. That’s the message I took to the Energy Committee today and is echoed by recent statements from the Scottish Government itself.
Thankfully in Scotland we have, so far at least, avoided some of the environmental catastrophes seen elsewhere where renewables have caused significant damage to wildlife – one such example is the Smøla wind farm in Norway which was sited in an area important for white-tailed sea eagles and has, unfortunately, killed 39 of them between 2005 and 2010.
The RSPB remains supportive of well-sited and designed renewable energy developments, but as we move closer to meeting the renewables targets, and as all the ‘easy’ sites are used up, safeguards must be in place to ensure that development is steered away from the most sensitive ecologically sensitive sites. The challenge to the Scottish Government and all of us in Scotland is clear – ensure that Scotland’s natural environment, upon which we all depend, is protected during the renewables revolution. If we do this, we will meet our renewables targets and become a leader not just in the development of renewable energy but in the sustainable development of renewable energy.