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  1. ITV Report

Why Scotland is leading the way in renewable energy and what we can learn from it

This week we're reporting on how devolution has affected the environment in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In the complicated world of devolved responsibilities, environmental protection was one of the clearest areas in which law and decision-making was given from Westminster to the devolved parliaments and assemblies.

In the quest to go green, Scotland is way ahead of the rest of the UK, with nearly all electricity produced by wind power.

In October, 98% of Scotland's electricity was produced by wind turbines, with the devolved government on track to produce all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

Scotland is leading the UK in the quest to go green. Credit: ITV News

One area of Scotland which is at the forefront of renewable energy is Orkney, where they generate more electricity from wind turbines than they can use, and also have the world's leading testing facility for emerging wave and tidal power systems.

Orkney is at the forefront of renewable energy in the UK. Credit: EMEC

While the owners of wind turbines can sell excess electricity back to the National Grid, Orkney with its 750 domestic wind turbines and several larger ones owned by community energy cooperatives, has come up with a different idea: using the electricity to split water (two resources they have plenty of) to produce hydrogen and oxygen with the help of a hydrogen electrolyser.

Owners of wind turbines can sell excess electricity back to the National Grid. Credit: ITV News

As Neil Kermode of the European Marine Energy Centre explains, the uses of hydrogen are many: "Once you've got hydrogen you can either turn it back to electricity somewhere else, or there's the ability to store it and transfer the power, or you can use it for heating and burn it, or you can put it in cars for hydrogen fuel cell cars."

Hydrogen can be turned back into electricity, or stored, making it very useful, Neil Kermode of the EMEC explains. Credit: ITV News

In Orkney, they're attempting to put their hydrogen to several of these uses.

Currently they are using hydrogen to power the fuel cells on the ferries which sail between the islands, providing the vessels with all the energy for their auxiliary powers such as lighting, refrigeration and heating, but the islanders are not stopping there.

Their ultimate goal is to replace the diesel ferries with a new generation powered by hydrogen charged fuel cells.

In Orkney they hope to make all their ferries powered by renewables. Credit: ITV News

So why is Scotland so much more successful than the rest of the UK in harnessing its natural resources to create green energy?

The devolved Scottish government has control over environmental protection, meaning it can promote renewables and energy efficient homes.

"Energy policy is not devolved," explains Andy Kerr, Executive Director, Edinburgh for Carbon Innovation.

"But what is devolved is the ability to promote renewables and to promote energy efficiency, and what the Scottish Government did was take that and just expand it massively.

"The Scottish Government has seen renewables and climate action as an economic opportunity rather than just an environmental thing that had to be done."

While energy policy is not devolved, environmental policy is, meaning the Scottish Government can promote green energy, explains Andy Kerr. Credit: ITV News

While energy subsidies paid for all of us have helped Scotland's renewable revolution, experts believe it's leadership on green electricity and energy efficient homes should be a lesson to the rest of the UK as we face the challenge of a rapidly warming world.