In 2010, Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland, announced that his government was aiming to power all of Scotland with 100% renewable energy by 2025. Just a few months later, they kicked it up a notch or five: Scotland would seek to run entirely on renewable power by 2020. Most of that would come from ambitious onshore and offshore wind farms, as well as some smaller wave and tidal power projects—and there are 7 GW of such clean energy projects already completed or underway.
By the end of 2011, it looked as if all was going to plan, despite the requisite naysaying from skeptics. Here's Triple Pundit on Scotland's progress thus far:
2011 was an epic year for Scottish energy companies. The Department for Energy and Climate Change released figures recently demonstrating that the renewable energy sector saw more than £750 million of investment last year. Currently seven gigawatts (GW) of renewable projects are operational, under construction or approved ... several projects are in the pipeline to eventually deliver 17 GW of power with an estimated investment of £46 billion ... [Scotland] is already well on its way to hit its interim target of 31 percent.And 2012 looks to continue that trend, especially as Salmond announced a new partnership with the United Arab Emirates, and Masdar, the Abu Dhabi clean energy company, today at the World Future Energy Summit. The two governments agreed to lay out an action plan this year that would allow them to pool resources and technology to accelerate cleantech development, initially focusing on offshore wind and carbon capture and sequestration.
Salmond acknowledged that one of the primary challenges to meeting the 2020 goal was finding ways to bring the costs of offshore wind projects down.
"The costs of offshore wind will have to be reduced by 20% to be competitive," he said at a press conference today. Efforts to analyze and improve the supply chain will be a top priority, as will examining transmission challenges inherent in efficiently transporting electricity over long distances. Salmond repeatedly emphasized the need to commercialize offshore wind to make the technology available for wider deployment (and granting Scotland a foothold in one of the next generation's most promising industries).
"The real prize is the technologies that we are refining together," he said. "The result is to demonstrate the feasibility for deployment of those technologies around the world."
Other challenges to the burgeoning renewable sector are strictly political in nature: Salmond has been leading a push for Scottish independence, which has led the likes of Citigroup to warn investors of backing energy projects in the region. But Salmond dismissed such concerns today, asserting that there was great "strength in confidence in the renewable sector", and pointed to a great potential for foreign investment.
Scotland's push to become a leader in marine renewables (they're also seeking to deploy as much as 2 GW of wave and tidal power) is not just laudable, but could prove visionary indeed. The effort could prove a major boon to Scotland's economy, where wind could become a $30 billion dollar industry, according to forecasts from Scottish Enterprises. As such, it's no surprise that the plan is raising high hopes in the renewable energy industry – and, no doubt, in Scotland.