Scotland Advances Renewable Energy Development

The country’s first minister says Scotland could become the “world’s first hydro-economy.”

Scotland Renewable Energy

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Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond unveiled a legislative plan this week that would allow the state-owned utility Scottish Water to use its thousands of acres of landbank and pipe network to invest in vast renewable energy projects, the Guardian reports.

The “green” energy investment will help beat the recession and turn Scotland into “the world’s first hydro-economy,” according to Salmond.

In his minority government’s last legislative program before next May’s Scottish elections, Salmond proposed a plan that would empower Scottish Water to build wind farms, hydro schemes and “green” power stations “in partnership and competition with established energy companies,” the Guardian writes.

The organization—the United Kingdom’s fourth-largest water company, with annual revenues of about $1.5 billion—could generate about $462 million or more in extra revenues by using its 80,000 acres of land and pipelines for renewable energy projects.

The move would not involve selling off or mutualizing the organization, despite pressure from Conservatives to turn Scottish Water into a mutualized company under public ownership, which, they believe, would immediately raise up to about $4.62 billion for the Treasury.

Salmond said that the plan would maintain the company’s public status while allowing it to pursue more commercial opportunities and become self-sufficient. The utility is already testing the waters of potential joint projects with some of the biggest players in the renewable energy business.

Scotland, whose terrain and climate favor renewable energy generation, is already starting to exploit its vast hydropower potential. The country has committed to seeing renewables deliver 20 percent of the total energy used and 50 percent of its gross electricity consumed by 2020, the Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead recently said.

Last month, Green Highland Renewables Limited, a little-known hydro development company backed by British energy giant Scottish and Southern Energy, won a contract to develop small-scale hydro schemes on a national forest estate in Scotland’s Highlands region, The Herald reports. The region is the largest of three nationwide zones that are open for small-scale hydro-development.

The two companies will develop more than 100 hydroelectric dams across the region in what is expected to be a 10-year program, according to the contract. Other parts of the land will be allocated for developing wind farms.

Meanwhile, the world’s largest tidal turbine was unveiled in Scotland last month, prompting some of its developers to suggest that the turbine could unlock the potential of the marine energy industry in Scotland and could boost the country’s renewable generation capacity, the Guardian reports.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency supports the development of renewable energy in Scotland, including hydropower, but warns against potential adverse effects on the environment.

“SEPA aims to ensure that an appropriate balance between promoting hydropower and protecting the water environment and other water users is always achieved,” the organization says on its website.

Sources: the Guardian, the Financial Times, The Herald, The Courier, The Scotsman, SEPA

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