Scotland could play a major role in Britain becoming energy secure by 2030 according to pro-growth campaign group Britain Remade.
In Powerbook for Scotland, Britain Remade outlines a series of reforms to cut Britain’s dependence on volatile international gas markets, deliver clean domestic energy supplies and bring down bills.
The measures include fast-tracking clean energy projects within designated zones, boosting investment in grid connections, cutting the time it takes to get planning permission for new renewables, and dropping Scotland’s effective ban on new nuclear energy.
A majority (54%) of Scots think that nuclear power should be included in Scotland’s energy mix in order to hit the country’s 2045 net zero target, including 44% of people who voted for the Scottish National Party - putting them at odds with their party's energy policy, while 39% oppose.
Even after Scotland’s last operational nuclear station stops generating in 2028, Scotland will still take electricity produced by nuclear reactors, but it will come from the rest of the UK.
The polling, carried out by Opinium on behalf of Britain Remade, also revealed that an overwhelming majority of people (84%) were concerned about Britain’s reliance on importing energy from other countries.
The recommendations in the report complement the 25 actions put forward in Britain Remade's Powerbook, which were heavily backed by industry and politicians from across the political spectrum, and would cut carbon emissions equivalent to taking 93% of the 33.2 million cars in the UK off the road.
To become energy secure by 2030, Britain will need to unlock an additional 70GW of renewable power in less than seven years, on top of the 40GW already available.
Scotland can play a massive role in this renewable revolution. But doing so will require drastically cutting the time it takes to get new energy infrastructure built.
Currently it can take up to 13 years for an offshore wind farm to progress through the planning system and start generating power, despite construction of the turbines only taking two to three years.
The Seagreen Offshore Wind Farm is set to be Scotland’s largest and power 1.6 million homes, but construction is still to be completed - more than a decade after its planning application was lodged.
To deliver this expansion in renewables by 2030, the time it takes to build a new offshore wind farm will need to fall to just five and a half years. It will need to take just five years to get new onshore wind turbines up and running and large solar farms will have to go from idea to generating power in just one year.
One of the ways this will be achieved will be through the creation of new Clean Energy Zones across Scotland.
The new zones, modelled on policies already in place in Spain, would provide fast-tracked planning approval for new clean energy projects by eliminating environmental impact assessments in all but exceptional cases for all onshore wind, up to 75MW, and solar projects of 150MWs and under.
Scotland is fortunate enough to have some of the world’s best conditions for wind power, but renewable power on its own is not enough for the country to be energy secure in less than 7 years.
Safe, reliable, and low-carbon nuclear will be essential to providing baseload energy for a majority renewable grid.
To become energy secure, and no longer be at the mercy of volatile international gas markets, Scotland must drop the ban on new nuclear.
To support the rollout of Small Modular Reactors a new planning system should be developed.
Despite the Scottish Government’s opposition to new sources of nuclear power, nearly a third (30%) of Scottish National Party backers are against the current policy of opposing the building of new nuclear power stations.
New planning rules would pave the way for a fleet of SMRs being rolled out in Scotland, which along with providing low carbon power could play a major role in decarbonising Scotland’s industry.
As Small Modular Reactors are a fraction of the size of a full-scale nuclear power plant, they can be sites in more areas meaning many former coal or industrial sites could be repurposed.
The technology could secure a long-term future for sites such as the Grangemouth Refinery protecting jobs as Scotland moves to Net Zero emissions.
To win permission to build a new offshore wind farm, developers often submit over a thousand documents including a 10,000 plus page environmental impact assessment. Even then, they can face years of delay due to legal challenges. If Scotland is to deploy more than 20GW additional offshore generation by 2030, then urgent reform is needed.
Sam Richards, Founder and Campaign Director for Britain Remade, said:
“If we want to become energy secure by 2030, we are going to need to deliver major reforms that slash the time it takes to get new sources of clean energy up and running and unlock new nuclear power in Scotland.”
“For generations Scotland has been at the forefront of energy innovation. It was home to one of the first hydroelectric power station in the UK, the location to one of the world’s first commercial nuclear power stations and where the first commercial floating offshore wind farm was built.
Unfortunately, the Scottish Government is now standing in the way of innovation by blocking safe reliable nuclear energy at a time when energy bills are soaring and we need every clean electron we can get our hands on. It’s time for the Scottish Government to drop the ban on new nuclear.”
“Our polling shows there has been a surge in support for dropping the ban on new nuclear in Scotland. State-of-the-art Small Modular Reactors can provide clean baseload power, decarbonise industry and provide thousands of jobs across the country.”
“By speeding up the delivery of clean energy projects, and dropping the ban on new nuclear, we can end our reliance on expensive foreign gas, households will see cheaper bills and thousands of good quality jobs will be created.