Scotland Surging on Renewable Power

By Alexandra Patel and Monica Medina

In the first half of 2019, Scotland generated enough wind energy to supply homes with electricity two times over. Wind turbines produced more than 98 million megawatt-hours of electricity – which is univalent to enough power for 4.47 million homes.  And just last week, a new £6 million renewable energy project in Stirling — the first of its kind in the UK — using cutting-edge technologies to harness energy from wastewater from the city’s sewage works.

Why This Matters: In 2018, under the Trump administration, the renewable energies sector faced severe roadblocks. From rolling back policies designed to curb carbon emissions, imposing tariffs on solar panels and threatening to cut subsidies for clean energy, the government worked to hold back the industry. Even under these conditions, the development and investment into clean energy continued to grow. Without the backing and resources of our government though, it will be a much harder and longer battle for the United States to rival Scotland and reach its full potential for renewable energy. According to a report from the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan, U.S. onshore wind resources have the potential to generate 11,000 gigawatts of electricity – that is 123 times the current installed capacity. Only through cooperation and collaboration between public institutions and private corporations can the United States hope to achieve the full integration of renewables within the energy industry akin to what Scotland is doing.

A Global Example: Scotland has become a global leader in renewable energy adoption.

  • It generates more than half of its electricity consumption primarily from wind, wave, and tide energy sources.
  • Scotland is home to around 25 percent of all of Europe’s offshore wind and tidal resources and holds over 60 percent of the UK’s onshore wind capacity.
  • The Scottish government is committed to ‘decarbonizing’ by reaching 100 percent electricity generation from renewables by 2020 and 50 percent total energy consumption by renewables by 2030.
  • In 2018, Scottish Power became the first UK energy firm to completely eradicate energy production from fossil fuels, with plans to invest £2 billion to increase renewable capacity.

Side by Side: By comparison, the United States generates only about 11 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. 80 percent of power is still being derived from fossil fuels, with a small 8.6 percent from nuclear. While the different geographies of the two countries explain some of the difference, such as lower wind speeds across many parts of the U.S., institutional and governmental support also plays a big role.

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