Scotland’s growing energy industry

scottish energy

Approximately 9% of the UK’s total energy consumption is accounted for by Scotland; however, it is the massive contribution made by the country’s North Sea oil and gas fields, not to mention coal mines, which account for 25% of the total UK production.

As the production of renewable green energy becomes ever more important, both politically and in terms of combating global warming it is good to know that in addition to traditional fossil fuels, Scotland benefits from a wealth of other natural resources, including wind and wave generation.

Existing sources of power generation 

Currently, Scotland relies on a combination of coal, gas and nuclear power stations, with a relatively small contribution being made by onshore wind and hydro power.

As nuclear power stations reach the end of their lives, the Scottish government has announced that they will be closed down and replaced by other forms of energy generation.

The future of power generation using fossil fuels

It is accepted that the country will continue to rely on electricity generated by gas and coal power stations for a number of years to come. However, a huge investment is being made to drastically reduce carbon emissions by developing carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.

The country’s government has been actively involved in supporting research into identifying possible CO2 storage locations around the country, which would enable fossil fuels to continue to be used, whilst capturing harmful CO2 emissions. It has been determined that there is sufficient capacity to accommodate CO2 emissions produced by Scottish industry for at least the next 200 years.

In addition to providing at least a partial solution to the problem of ozone damaging gases the Emissions Trading Scheme also offers participating companies financial incentives.

Thanks to the know-how and expertise derived from decades of North Sea oil exploration and production, Scotland is set to maximise employment prospects and commercial profitability from this new technology.

In the medium term it is thought that the country has the potential to become one of the leading European centres for the development and promotion of this innovative new industry.

Fracking

Throughout the UK fracking has come to be associated with controversy regarding its alleged negative environmental impact. However, if the experts are to be believed, the process holds out the promise of cutting the country’s reliance on oil and gas imports.

It has been estimated by the British Geological Society (BGS) that fracking could extract as many as 8.57 billion barrels of oil from sites across the UK, with a more conservative figure of 4.4 billion being considered more likely. In comparison, North Sea oil wells have produced 45 billion barrels since the 1970s.

The BGS recently reported that Scotland’s main shale gas and oil fields are located in the Midland Valley between Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Firth of Forth. It estimates that while oil deposits are relatively small, around 6 billion barrels, there is some 80 trillion cubic feet of shale gas. The Society went on to add that it was unable to estimate what percentage of the oil or gas could actually be extracted.

UKOOG chief executive, Ken Cronin, said: “This report will give reassurance to investors who wish to explore for oil and gas onshore in Scotland and adds to the estimates of significant onshore resources which can help replace the UK’s growing dependency on imports and balance the decline of the North Sea”. UKOOG is the organisation responsible for representing the onshore gas and oil industry.

Sources of renewable energy

Marine energy is the term used to describe power derived from wave and tidal sources. The Scottish government has recently invested almost £5 million in a number of companies including McLaughlin & Harvey, which is working on a 500Kw turbine to be sited off the Mull of Kintyre.

Funding has also been granted to Atlantis Resources Corporation to help establish a global engineering hub and centre of excellence in Edinburgh. It has been estimated that Scotland has 25% of Europe’s total offshore tidal and wind potential and 10% of its wave potential.

Currently, wind farms are generating enough electricity to power over a million homes and the number either under construction or planned increases every year. Many of these farms are independently funded by a combination of local communities, companies, public bodies and farmers. Thanks to the relatively low cost, established technology and financial incentives available, investing in wind farms is seen as a comparatively risk free option.

Scotland has a target of deriving 100% of its gross annual demand for electricity by 2020. The government claims that it currently produces, or has plans to produce, almost 7 gigawatts of renewable energy.

Scottish independence

One of the major points of disagreement regarding Scottish independence relates to what percentage of North Sea oil revenues would revert to the country, with figures ranging from 90% to as low as 9%. Clearly, in the event of a ‘yes’ vote, some intensive negotiations will be required between the Westminster and Edinburgh governments.

All eyes will be on Scotland on 18th September for the Referendum vote; however it is impossible to know what effect this will have on the UK whether they get a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote. Hopefully though, whatever happens, it will not hinder Scotland’s plans on either renewable or traditional energy production.

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