Scotland has the capacity to be self-sufficient in electricity from renewable energy and have plenty left over for the rest of the UK, says a report commissioned by the Scottish Executive.

The findings of the renewables resource study were announced by Environment and Rural Development Minister Ross Finnie, speaking in Castle Douglas at the opening of the Green House, the new offices of renewable energy developer, Natural Power.

According to the study, Scotland has a potential renewable energy resource in excess of 60 GW. A great majority of this is made up of wind, both onshore and offshore, as well as wave and tidal energy.

Mr Finnie said, “This hugely significant study outlines the breathtaking scale of Scotland’s renewable energy potential and vindicates our strongly held belief that we are ideally placed to benefit from the sustainable energy revolution.

“The scale of this potential is illustrated by one stunning statistic: there is enough potential energy from onshore wind power alone to meet Scotland’s peak winter demand for electricity twice over. In all, the total resource amounts to 75 per cent of the total UK existing generating capacity.

Mr Finnie also announced the publication of a second study examining the Scottish electricity grid. This study confirms that there is enough capacity available at present to allow the Executive’s targets for renewable energy to be met.

The renewable study by consultants Garrad Hassan has identified the magnitude of the potential renewable energy resource across Scotland to 2020. The study used up-to-date information on each resource, and modelled it against economic, environmental, planning and technical constraints. The study indicates that nearly 60 GW of new renewable energy generating capacity could be available in and offshore Scotland at under 7p per unit in 2010 (including connection costs but not grid strengthening costs), as shown in the table below. For comparison, the total UK installed generation capacity is around 80 GW, while the total amount of electricity supplied in a year is around 390TWh.

Technology Generation Energy (TWh)

Offshore Wind 25 80

Wave Energy 14 50

Onshore Wind 11.5 45

Tidal stream 7.5 33.5

Agricultural wastes 0.4 3.5

Small hydro 0.3 1

Energy Crops 0.14 1.1

Forestry Residues 0.09 0.7

Total 59.1 216

The grid study, also commissioned by the Executive, was carried out by the network owners, ScottishPower and Scottish and Southern Energy, with some input from Strathclyde University. It shows that the network can connect around 1GW of new capacity without upgrades. This is more than enough to satisfy the Executive’s target for renewables of 18 per cent by 2010. The cost of upgrades required to increase the capacity available is under �200m.

The Renewables Obligation (Scotland), the Executive’s new policy instrument for increasing renewable energy production, will come into force in April 2002.

A spokesperson for the British Wind Energy Association welcomed the report which confirmed the associations views as to the potential for wind energy from Scotland. “Challenges and obstacles do exist, such as the problem of physical connections and the current operation of Neta”. Although the introduction of Neta has led to a competitive pricing structure for electricity, its operation penalises generation which tends to be unpredictable such as windpower.

“Harnessing the potential of windpower will require government support and a level of finance which is likely to be beyond that of developers alone,” said the spokesperson.

The Green House is on the Forrest Estate in Castle Douglas. The estate, owned by Norwegian shipping group Fred Olsen Ltd, has three small hydro generating plants, with plans to install a biomass generator in the near future. The offices, powered by this locally generated renewable electricity, consume 30% of the energy of a standard building of similar size.

Separately, Energy Minister Brian Wilson today unveiled a new wind farm project in west Wales and promised a period of wind energy expansion for the UK.

Accompanied by Assembly Environment Minister Sue Essex, Mr Wilson launched a new windfarm in Carmarthenshire – the first to be built in Wales in two years.

He also gave the go-ahead for the biggest wind farm in the UK to be built in Ceredigion. Once built, it will supply nearly 50 per cent of the electricity needs of Ceredigion and one per cent of the needs of Wales.

The minister opened the £3.5m project at Parc Cynog near Pendine, west Wales. The five-turbine farm will produce enough energy for 4000 homes.

He said the �35m development at Cefn Croes will be the single largest windfarm in the UK. It will result in savings of 150,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

“Wales is blessed with some of the finest energy rich natural sources in the world. “I am confident that government, investors and the local community will work together to ensure that these assets are utilised to help reduce the effects of climate change,” he said.