Construction today started on what will be Europe's largest onshore wind farm, as the Government set out proposals outlined in the Energy Review to see a five-fold increase in the amount of electricity generated from renewable sources in the UK.
Performing the official ground-breaking ceremony for Scottish Power's £300m Whitelee Windfarm, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Alistair Darling said:
"Within three years, 140 turbines will rise above Eaglesham Moor, harnessing enough wind energy to power 200,000 homes, that's most of Glasgow. It will be the largest onshore wind farm in Europe and make a major contribution to our twin aims of securing energy supplies and tackling climate change.
"Scotland has long been the UK's powerhouse and is now establishing itself in the vanguard on renewables. 16% of Scotland's electricity already comes from these sources, compared to 4% for the UK as a whole, and Whitelee will save a further 250,000 tonnes of harmful CO2 every year."
ScottishPower Chief Executive, Philip Bowman said: "As Europe's largest onshore wind farm, Whitelee represents a great step forward for the UK in tackling climate change, and is crucial to meeting the Government's targets for green energy.
"Of course, Whitelee is not the end of the story. If we are to deliver more clean energy to people's homes, we have really got to keep up the momentum on the other big onshore wind farms in Scotland which are currently in planning".
The Government also today began its consultation seeking views from industry, investors and other stakeholders on how to reach the aim set out in the Energy Review of getting 20 per cent of the UK's electricity from renewables by 2020.
A key question in the consultation is whether the most effective way of increasing the amount of clean energy we produce is by the 'banding' of the Renewables Obligation (RO) for different types of renewable energy. This gives a greater economic incentive for the renewables sector to generate more power from emerging technologies such as offshore wind farms and biomass plants while tailoring support to cheaper technologies like landfill gas and co-firing.
There is also a commitment to increase the level of RO from its current limit of 15.4 per cent by 2015 up to a maximum of 20 per cent by 2020.
Commenting on the consultation, Mr Darling said:
"The Energy Review found that if we want to tackle climate change and ensure the security of our future supplies there has to be a significant increase in the amount of clean, green electricity we produce from renewable sources.
"There is no doubt that reaching 20 per cent will be tough. It means we must get more power from offshore wind farms and other emerging technologies like biomass and wave and tidal, while maximising the contribution from those technologies that are already being deployed.
"The measures we are consulting on are designed to develop these types of newer technologies, while maintaining investor confidence in the sector. This is building on the good progress that is already being made with developed technologies like onshore wind and landfill gas. "
The main aspects of the consultation are:
- Extending Obligation levels up to 20 per cent on a 'guaranteed headroom' basis.
- Banding the RO from 2009 or 2010.
- Freezing the buyout price in 2015 by removing the annual increase in line with Retail Price Index.
- Introducing a mechanism to ensure future Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROCs) prices taper smoothly down rather than falling steeply if obligation levels are exceeded.
As well as expanding the large-scale renewables sector the Government is also looking to increase the amount of smaller-scale, localized electricity production. The document published today outlines a statutory consultation on a small number of detailed, but important, changes to the RO legislation, which it is proposed, will come into force from 1 April 2007.
These changes are:
- To allow agents to act on behalf of small generators for example, in completing accreditation forms, claiming ROCs etc
- To allow agents to amalgamate the output of two or more small generators for the purposes of claiming ROCs
- The removal of an administrative process where all generators are required to have what are known as sale and buyback agreements
The consultation will also look at removing the caps on co-firing of energy crops from 1 April 2007 while retaining the 10 per cent cap for co-firing of other forms of biomass.