Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Neil Pooran and Peter A Walker at Business Insider report that 28% more renewable electricity was generated in Scotland in 2022 than in the previous year. The impressive increase was largely driven by onshore wind farms.
Scotland’s green energy generation capacity is expected to soar further as big offshore wind farms now being built come on line. The BBC says that 16 gigawatts of new renewable electricity capacity are being developed in Scotland, half of it from offshore wind. Scotland, it says, has tripled its renewable energy output in the past decade, with the renewables sector employing 27,000 Scots.
Scotland, as a small country of 5.45 million inhabitants, exports a lot of its power to England. Those exports were up 17% in 2022, and were worth nearly $5 billion, given the high energy prices provoked by the Russian war on Ukraine and the consequent sanctions on Russian hydrocarbons.
Although some 97% of Scotland’s electricity consumption is now from renewables, the country still emits carbon dioxide from other energy sectors, including heating, transportation, construction and agriculture.
The ruling Scottish National Party had issued a call this winter for an end to new oil and gas exploration. While not all candidates for First Minister were committed to that policy, the eventual winner, Humza Yousaf, is sticking firmly with the pledge. His ability to block new drilling is limited however, since granting such licenses is a prerogative of the British government. Britain or the United Kingdom is a union of four countries– England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland– and the federal government sets many energy policies. Still, Yousaf can at least complain loudly about drilling licenses being granted in Scotland or off its shores by London.
Yousaf is one of the SNP leaders most committed to a quick achievement of a zero carbon economy, toward which Scotland has made some of the most impressive strides among the world’s economies.
The Tory government of Britain, in contrast, is committed to ridiculous climate policies such as building a raft of new nuclear plants and trying to capture carbon dioxide (which is a poison gas if you pile it up all in one place. What if there is a leak?) Besides which, carbon capture is not a proven technology, it is just vaporware and way too expensive to be viable. The Conservatives talk this way because they are all heavily invested in BP in their retirement portfolios, and the actual value of BP’s oil fields is zero given the harm burning oil does to the earth.
Yousaf is also committed to a just energy transition and using the state’s redistribution capacities to protect the poor and workers. He has spoken of state investments in green energy, i.e. developing a public-private partnership that opponents will brand socialism.
Yousaf has excellent relations with the Green Party members of parliament, and that will help him stay in power. Even Keir Starmer of the UK Labor Party has highlighted Scotland’s renewables successes and said they would be supported in a Labor government.