‘Get planners on board with Scots energy target’

The Scottish government must drive more cohesion across the agri-renewables sector if it wants to meet its target of producing the equivalent of 100% electricity consumption from renewables by 2020, NFU Scotland has warned.

Speaking at the Energy Now Scotland event in Edinburgh this week, NFU Scotland president Nigel Miller said the government needed to ensure all parties – landowners, farmers, industry and public and local authorities – shared in its renewables vision.

“It is a big ask for Scotland to generate 100% of its electricity from renewable sources in the future, but the reality is that we are making huge progress and a lot of people in the rural community are driving and investing in this vision,” said Mr Miller.

“But progress appears to be bringing more hurdles – the past few months have clearly shown that planning controls, grid connection and grid capacity are now the real limiting factors to progress.”

Head of the renewables team at the Scottish Agricultural College, Jim Campbell, said the biggest hurdles farmers faced were planning, particularly for wind projects, and getting a grid connection.

“It’s getting harder to get planning applications through and the amount of information they are looking for is getting more, even for the smaller turbines,” he said.

“We need to slim down the planning process. The Scottish government has these targets to meet, but the local planners seem to be working against that a lot of the time.”

The government needed to become more interventionist and proactive by collaborating with local authorities to ensure they worked with the government to deliver on renewables targets, said Mr Miller.

“Sorting this out quickly is key to continuing our impressive track record in energy generation and the role of the farming industry in that,” added Mr Miller.

“Farm businesses, estates and crofters can provide the platform for consistent supply of electricity, whether that is generated by wind or hydro power or anaerobic digestion. The rural community will have a huge part to play in Scotland hitting its renewable energy target in 2020.”

Mr Miller’s plea came following news from the government that 2012 was on track to be the best renewables year for Scotland so far – electricity generation from renewables for the first half of the year was 13% higher than last year, while 35% of Scottish electricity demand was delivered from renewables projects – exceeding the government’s 31% target.

Growth in the sector was evident as installed renewable capacity at the end of the second quarter of 2012 was up by 18.6% on the previous year.

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