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Scottish Energy Strategy - The Future of Energy

  • United Kingdom
  • Real estate planning
  • Energy and infrastructure


The publication of the Scottish Energy Strategy (“SES”) in late December 2017 is the culmination of lengthy consultations and discussions on crucial choices affecting Scotland’s energy future. This SES is a live route map, setting out the first steps on a journey to bring about a major transition in the generation and supply of energy and the management of energy consumption. 

The SES will guide the decisions the Scottish Government will make to achieve the 2050 vision for energy in Scotland:

A flourishing, competitive local and national energy sector, delivering secure, affordable, clean energy for Scotland’s households, communities and businesses

The SES sets out two indicative scenarios of how the future Scottish energy system may look in 2050. The scenarios consider how low carbon electricity and hydrogen could be used to meet demand across the industry, services, residential and transport sectors, bearing in mind Scotland’s climate change targets. Both scenarios are illustrative only and it is acknowledged that the 2050 energy system is unlikely to match either scenario but will probably include aspects of both.  

The 2050 vision is built around six Strategic Priorities, designed to be a flexible set of guiding principles, able to respond to changes in individual technologies and wider market developments. The Strategic Priorities are: Renewable and Low Carbon Solutions; System Security and Flexibility; Energy Efficiency; Consumer Engagement and Protection; Innovative Local Energy Systems; and Oil and Gas Industry Strengths.

For the Renewable and Low Carbon Solutions Strategic Priority, the Scottish Government “will continue to champion and explore the potential of Scotland’s huge renewable energy resource, and its ability to meet our local and national heat, transport and electricity needs – helping to achieve our ambitious emissions reductions targets”.

Taking stock of the progress in decarbonising the electricity system, the SES provides a snapshot of energy consumption and generation trends relating to the renewables sector. Provisional statistics show that 54% of Scotland’s electricity needs were met from renewables in 2016, with major new capacity due to connect in the coming years. Of the electricity that accounts for just under a quarter of total energy demand, 77% of electricity generated in 2015 came from zero or low carbon sources and 27% from wind energy alone. In 2016, the equivalent of 54% of total Scottish electricity consumption came from renewable sources, four times greater than the level in 2000. Wind was the predominant source of this renewable energy.

 For the wind industry, the stated aims in the SES are:

  • The Scottish Government will continue to push for UK-wide policy support for onshore wind, and take action of its own to prioritise and deliver a route to market – combined with a land use planning approach which continues to support development while protecting Scotland’s landscapes.
  • The Scottish Government will open consideration of new opportunities for development in Scottish waters – and renew its support for the development of an innovative and competitive supply chain in Scotland.

"Near-term actions” (with a particular focus on the next five years) are identified for the Renewables and Low Carbon Solutions Strategic Priority. For onshore wind, these are:

  • Push for UK-wide policy support;
  • Build on the positive and practical provision for onshore wind in the planning system under the next iteration of the NPF and SPP (slated for 2020); and
  • Implement the new Onshore Wind Policy Statement (OWPS) which underlines the importance of onshore wind as an established, low-cost resource.

With regard to renewable energy and planning, renewable energy is considered a core part of planning policy, providing a key means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as significant economic opportunities. Planning and consenting processes remain vitally important. A major review of the Scottish planning system is underway with the publication of the Planning Bill. Both the Planning Bill and OWPS are discussed in separate briefings.

For offshore wind, the near-term actions are:

  • Work with Crown Estate Scotland and Marine Scotland on new offshore wind opportunities, including offshore wind;
  • Continue to work with the offshore sector, enterprise agencies and other partners to increase the industrial and supply chain benefits for Scotland of development in its waters; and
  • Contribute to UK Offshore Wind Deal discussions between industry and the UK Government.

The route to 2050 is to be guided by low or no-regrets options, which the Scottish Government believe will set the country on the right path to the desired low carbon future. Two new targets are set for the Scottish energy system for 2030:

  • The equivalent of 50% of the energy for Scotland’s heat, transport and electricity consumption to be supplied from renewable sources; and
  • An increase by 30% in the productivity of energy use across the Scottish economy.

Achieving the 50% target is acknowledged as challenging. This reflects uncertain market conditions compared to those in previous decades and that the Scottish Government does not have devolved responsibility for all relevant policy levers, such as a route to market for onshore wind. However, the Scottish Government is committed to a low carbon energy system and to the continued growth of renewables in Scotland. The SES underlines the Government’s belief in the ability of the renewable energy sector to build on its huge achievements and progress to date.

To support the delivery of the SES, the Scottish Government will publish an Annual Energy Statement which will set out the latest energy statistics, progress made towards targets and developments under each of the Strategic Priorities.

The SES recognises renewable and low carbon energy as the foundation for Scotland’s future energy system, offering a huge opportunity for economic and industrial growth. For those in the wind industry, the SES contains encouraging signs. The Scottish Government considers that onshore wind must continue to play a vital role in Scotland’s future to meet its energy and climate change goals. Scottish offshore wind is recognised as a competitive form of energy, now substantially cheaper than new nuclear energy. Deeper waters in particular are considered to offer tremendous potential.