Scotland has a long and positive association with renewable energy.
Nationally and internationally, our country has an excellent reputation - not only for the size, scale and strength of our renewable resource, but for the ways in which successive Scottish Governments have encouraged and supported its development.
That support has taken the form of legislation, clear and positive planning policy and guidance, and strong messages to national and international investors - both about Scotland's potential, and the ambitious targets to which we aspire. That positive approach and framework has combined well with the spirit and determination of investors and innovators, and the openness and appetite of communities across the country to become involved themselves.
The result is that we met the equivalent of an estimated 54% of our electricity demand from renewables in 2016, representing tremendous progress towards our target of 100% by 2020, and a significant contribution to our target of 50% of all energy from renewables by 2030. And while our intention remains to ensure that these targets are met from as wide and diverse a range as possible of renewable technologies, there can be no question about the dominant and hugely valuable role played by onshore wind - and we continue to see further capacity installed.
Onshore wind is now amongst the lowest cost forms of electricity generation of any kind. It has achieved this status by building and learning from projects at an increasing scale and benefits from economies of scale in the manufacturing process. These have in turn led the case for investment in stronger and smarter electricity networks across Scotland, creating a wider platform for other technologies on which to build.
There is no question that onshore wind is a vital component of the huge industrial opportunity that renewables more generally create for Scotland. The sector supports an estimated 7,500 jobs in Scotland, or 58% of the total for onshore wind across the UK, and generated more than £3 billion in turnover in 2015. Developers are increasingly managing international onshore wind projects from their bases in Scotland.
Our businesses have developed real strengths across the whole supply chain - in project development, civil engineering, and operation and maintenance.
Machrihanish, near Campbeltown is also home to the UK's only turbine tower fabricator. I am determined to build on this, and to make sure that Scotland continues to capture the economic and industrial awards which our positive policies and a healthy project pipeline will create. Indeed, it is our intention to increase the share of the supply chain opportunities that Scotland gains from future projects.
Onshore wind also plays a valuable role in empowering and rewarding local communities located near developments, with over £12 million in community benefits payments paid out in the last year. The next generation of projects must continue this positive and valuable relationship with local communities. Indeed, we aspire to go further in looking for co-investment opportunities to secure shared revenue models, and other new avenues to help regenerate local communities.
Our energy and climate change goals mean that onshore wind will continue to play a vital role in Scotland's future - helping to substantively decarbonise our electricity supplies, heat and transport systems, thereby boosting our economy, and meeting local and national demand.
This important role means we must support development in the right places, and - increasingly - the extension and replacement of existing sites, where acceptable, with new and larger turbines, based on an appropriate, case by case assessment of their effects and impacts.
To achieve this, we must ensure there is a route to market for the electricity generated - and in ways which reduce and ultimately eliminate any additional costs for consumers.
This needs developers and communities to work together to ensure that projects continue to strike the right balance between environmental impacts, local support, benefit, and - where possible - economic benefits deriving from community ownership. Indeed, securing economic benefit is an important objective to reward support for the industry within local communities.
We will pursue this partnership approach in a way which is compatible with Scotland's magnificent landscapes, including our areas of wild land.
Achieving appropriate environmental protection means that the relevant planning and consenting processes must remain aligned with the policy context and desired outcomes. A major review of the Scottish planning system is well under way; it will continue, as now, to fully reflect the important role of renewable energy and energy infrastructure, in the right places and with appropriate protection for the environment.
The Scottish Government's Consents Unit has provided, over many years rigorous, committed and streamlined processes for a host of electricity related applications, including those for onshore wind developments over 50 MW. We intend to consult early next year on proposals designed to ensure that the Unit remains properly resourced, and able to build on the high standard of service that it currently offers.
However, we are also looking hard at the wider statutory and legislative framework for determining larger electricity generation applications under the Electricity Act 1989. There is significant scope to improve the current framework, and a compelling case - which we will explore and pursue with the UK Government - for changes to be made which reflect the world now, rather than as it was when some of these legislative provisions and requirements were introduced.
I am grateful to all those who took part in the conversation regarding our draft Onshore Wind Policy Statement and who have helped shape the document as it now stands.
Looked at overall, the Statement underlines our view on the extent to which the current system is, as a whole, working effectively. While our consultation included some proposals aimed at placing a greater emphasis on project efficiency, and on the potential for a more strategic approach to project development, we have decided against pursuing these, based on the feedback we received.
Where there are areas that we believe we our approach or procedures can be improved, we will continue to pursue these - just as we will carry on working with all of our stakeholders to make sure that onshore wind development continues to deliver the best outcomes in terms of our energy goals, for the environment, and for local people.
Paul Wheelhouse MSP
Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy.