Chapter 2: Future Position and Net Zero
2.1.1. The transition to net zero means that our demand for green electricity will increase substantially over the course of the next decade. This means that a consistently higher rate of onshore wind, and other renewables capacity, will be required year on year.
2.1.2. This will be enabled in part by a strong, supportive policy environment from the Scottish Government, particularly one which mitigates preventable barriers, issues which are discussed further at Chapter 3: Technical Barriers to Deployment and Reserved Matters.
2.1.3. The UK currently has 14.1GW of installed onshore wind, with 8.4GW of this in Scotland. Scotland additionally has around 9.7GW of onshore wind currently in the pipeline, spread over 202 different projects:
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2.1.4. Our Climate Change Plan Update noted the need to develop 11-16GW of renewable capacity through to 2032. This is consistent with Renewable UK's recently published 'Onshore Wind Industry Prospectus', which sets out the need for Scotland to develop an additional 12 GW of onshore wind, meaning a total of 20.4GW installed capacity, by 2030.
2.1.5. The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has additionally developed four exploratory scenarios for emissions to 2050. These estimate that, in every scenario, the UK will require a total of 25-30GW of installed onshore wind capacity by 2050 to meet governmental targets - which would mean doubling the current UK installed capacity.
2.1.6. We are seeking views on an ambition for an additional 8-12GW of onshore wind be installed in Scotland by 2030 to help us meet our binding net zero commitment. This follows initial discussions with stakeholders, and will be subject to further analysis as part of our wider work to refresh Scotland's Energy Strategy. As well as taking into account the representations we are seeking from stakeholders through this consultation.
2.1.7. The amount of capacity ultimately developed will continue to depend on a range of factors, which are covered in this document. These will also be considered alongside:
- the development of other generating technologies and innovations
- the decarbonisation pathways and demand growth across other sectors such as heat, transport and industrial demand.
2.1.8. However, we believe it vital to send a strong signal and set a clear expectation on what we believe onshore wind capacity can contribute.
2.2. Future Opportunities and Challenges: Repowering and Maximising Efficient Generation
2.2.1. The continued growth of onshore wind will be influenced to a considerable extent by the repowering of our existing fleet. Over the next decade, we expect up to 2.5GW of currently operational Scottish wind farm developments to reach the end of their consented life. The operators of these stations will need to decide between repowering, life extension or decommissioning. There are a number of factors which will influence this decision, including local and national planning and consenting considerations, land use, public perception, environmental impact, economic and financial issues and technical requirements.
2.2.2. The Scottish Government strongly supports repowering in principle, as it allows for the re-use of certain elements of the existing infrastructure, and means that existing sites and capacity can continue to make a vital contribution to our energy mix and net zero progress. It's also the case that not all developments will be considered appropriate for repowering, and the relevant consent and planning permission will still need to be in place.
2.2.3. Repowering offers an important opportunity to increase capacity at appropriate sites by installing more efficient and technologically advanced turbines. The Scottish Government acknowledges that tip-heights for onshore wind farms are increasing, and welcomes the resulting efficiencies in generation that this enables. At the same time, not all environments are able to accommodate such turbines – the tallest tip-heights may not be appropriate in every landscape or for every development.
2.2.4. Although we won't be able to rely on repowering alone to meet the volume of onshore wind capacity required to support the growing demands on our electricity system, the Scottish Government believes that it will play an important part alongside significant volumes of new development.
Repowering, Life Extension and Planning
2.2.5. Repowering, and extending the operational life of wind farms, can take different forms, and the coming years are likely to bring advances in engineering, technology and environmental practices that will increase the opportunities to repower at particular sites.
2.2.6. Repowering to date has included new or upgraded components and technology being installed which can lengthen the operational life of a wind farm, while the layout and general scale of turbines remain unchanged. This is now known as life extension.
2.2.7. Other repowering options include dismantling existing turbines and installing new ones, potentially larger in scale, while re-using existing infrastructure (e.g. access roads, connection to a local electricity network). In these cases, the proposal is for a new wind farm, and can often extend the footprint of the existing wind farm into previously undeveloped areas.
2.2.8. As set out, there are significant potential advantages to repowering which include the environmental benefits of re-using existing infrastructure together with maximising the generation of established sites. Currently paragraph 174 of the Scottish Planning Policy sets out that the current use of a site as a wind farm will be a material consideration when assessing repowering applications.
Repowering and Community Engagement
2.2.9. Given the lifespan of renewable development, most wind farm sites, and their surrounding communities, may have changed markedly since the wind farm was originally considered through the planning and consenting system. End of life provides decision makers, developers, operators and local communities with an opportunity to reconsider the development's potential impact, including issues such as shadow flicker, landscape and visual impact, noise, community benefit and community empowerment and engagement, while recognising that the development has been in place for a significant period.
2.2.10. Most communities have thus far been either ambivalent towards, or supportive of, the repowering of wind farms in their locality. A recent study suggests that local communities are more likely to be supportive of an application to repower or extend the life of an existing local wind farm, rather than an application for new onshore wind development in an entirely new location. This community acceptance, engagement and support can obviously play a part in the smooth transition of proposals through the planning and consenting system, but it should also give communities a new opportunity to engage with developers and maximise opportunities for community benefit, shared ownership or other options (see section 2.6).
2.2.11. As repowering gains momentum over the coming decade, we will continue to consider opportunities for community benefits within the host community.
2.2.12. It remains vital that developers act as 'good neighbours', working in tandem with local communities, communicating over the course of a wind farm's life and building good relationships. This should allow concerns to be addressed as they emerge, empower communities to engage positively with the development and secure community enhancements.
2.3. Future Opportunities and Challenges: Hydrogen
2.3.1. Our Hydrogen Policy Statement (published in December 2020), sets out Scotland's huge ambition to produce low-cost, clean hydrogen as a potential replacement for fossil fuel feedstock in industrial and chemical processes. It can be used in transport as an alternative to internal combustion engines, and has the potential to be used for heat and cooking in our homes. Hydrogen can also play an important role in managing network operation (see next section).
2.3.2. Scotland's renewable resource can support hydrogen deployment to not only meet our needs, but for the potential exportation of hydrogen to other partner nations. The ambition set out in the Hydrogen Policy Statement of generating 5GW of hydrogen by 2030 further demonstrates the requirement for continued, and heightened, deployment of onshore wind to support our future hydrogen infrastructure.
2.3.3. To support the steady growth of green hydrogen production from onshore renewables we need to understand more about the optimal production designs and the best value integration of these technologies.
2.4. Future Opportunities and Challenges: Local Energy, Shared Ownership & Community Benefits
2.4.1. We recognise that large scale renewables won't be the only route by which we reach our net zero targets. In January 2021, the Scottish Government published the Local Energy Policy Statement, setting out the ten principles that underpin our commitment to more localised energy solutions. We understand and champion local energy as a vital part of a vibrant national energy network and our future energy mix.
2.4.2. Our Local Energy Policy Statement Delivery Framework sets out a number of actions that will be taken forward to enhance Scottish Government support for community led activity. These include prioritising locally owned and shared ownership opportunities, and ensuring that the disengaged and vulnerable groups are identified and supported. Support for this is included in the new Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) contract which commenced on 1 April 2021. CARES will also continue to support communities with community benefit discussions and to work towards creating a lasting legacy from community benefits, with community action plans that reflect local needs and priorities.
2.4.3. Community benefit discussions should be held separately to those on the proposed development. In some cases, a pot of money provides the community with financial support for local projects, whereas other communities may prefer more flexible packages of community benefits, including for example local jobs and training, recreational areas incorporated into the wind farm development, and improved broadband connectivity etc).
Future Position and Net Zero - Consultation Questions:
6. What are your views on the installed onshore wind capacity that will be necessary over the coming decade, recognising the ambition Scottish Government have proposed for 8-12GW? Please share any evidence.
7. What more can be done to capture the potential and value of hydrogen production from onshore wind and how best can we support the optimal integration of these technologies?
8. In what way(s) can we maximise the benefits of repowering over the coming decade?