Scotland Takes Lead in Race for the World’s First Fossil-Fuel-Free Electric Grid

Like Denmark and Germany, Scotland now gets more than a quarter of its electricity from clean power.

A piper plays the bagpipes at the Whitelee Windfarm in Eaglesham, Scotland. (Photo: J Mitchell/Getty Images)


Jan 5, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Emily J. Gertz is an associate editor for environment and wildlife at TakePart.

Scottish voters last year rejected independence from the United Kingdom, but the country could become independent of fossil fuels by 2030, according to a new report.

Sound far-fetched?

Consider this: Wind power met all of Scotland’s electricity demand in November, with power to spare for export to the rest of the U.K., according to the environmental group WWF Scotland. In December, wind met countrywide demand for electricity in 25 of 31 days.

For the year, renewable energy and fossil fuels each supplied 32 percent of Scotland’s electricity, while nuclear energy provided 35 percent, according to the U.K. Department of Climate Change.

A new analysis commissioned by WWF Scotland describes how the nation of 5.3 million could eliminate fossil fuels and nuclear energy in just 15 years. How? By combining annual reductions in energy use by 1 percent a year while adding more wind and hydropower and improving the efficiency of the electrical grid.

“The good news is that we don’t have to rely on a high-risk strategy based on unproven [carbon emissions capture and storage] technology. In fact, a renewables-based, efficient, flexible, electricity system is perfectly feasible by 2030,” states WWF Scotland. Going totally over to renewables “makes more of Scotland’s abundant renewable resources and flourishing green energy industry, triggering economic, social, and environmental benefits.”

To put Scotland firmly on a “low climate risk” path, “the future electricity grid must move away from a system dependent on conventional ‘baseload’ power plants, which run all the time toward a system where renewables become the new ‘baseload,’ ” says the report.

Scotland is not an outlier. Germany, Denmark, and other countries are getting more than a quarter of their electricity from renewable sources. On Monday, California Gov. Jerry Brown called for his state to obtain half its power from wind, solar, and other low-carbon sources by 2030.

In Germany, Europe’s largest national economy and the fifth largest in the world, renewables supplied about 27 percent of the nation’s annual demand in 2014, up from about 25 percent in 2013 and below 20 percent four years ago.

It seems likely the nation will hit its goal of 35 percent clean power by 2020. From January through May 2014, wind and solar met about 66 percent of Germany’s electricity demand.

In the United States, meanwhile, renewables grew from 13 percent of electricity generation in 2013 to 14 percent during the first half of the year, driven by expansion in solar energy. That may not seem like much compared with Germany’s progress, but it is up considerably from just 10 percent or so in 2010. The U.S. Energy Information Agency is forecasting a 4.3 percent increase in renewable energy consumption this year.