Joss Blamire: Renewable tech can be perfect solution

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For a city almost two millennia old, Edinburgh has seen significant changes in the last few years. With the trams almost ready to begin carrying passengers and comprehensive refurbishments of both Waverley and Haymarket, residents may be forgiven for missing some lower-key but equally important developments.

Scottish Renewables’ Annual Conference, at the EICC last week, heard how the growth of cutting-edge green energy is being incorporated into our daily routines.

Scotland leads the world in the development of renewable technologies which will help keep our energy-dependent lives on track, while reducing carbon emissions.

The refurbished Commonwealth Pool, as well as several schools and leisure centres, are heated by sunlight, through solar thermal panels. Queen Margaret University uses a biomass boiler fuelled by sustainable wood pellets to heat its campus, while the Drumbrae Community Hub is warmed by heat pumps which convert the latent heat of the earth into clean energy.

While heat makes up around half of our energy demands, addressing how we generate electricity is crucial if Scotland is to meet its carbon emission ambitions.

Currie Community High School uses a small wind turbine to generate electricity for use in school buildings.

By 2020, the Department of Energy and Climate Change says, the UK will have enough solar panels to power more than 1.5 million homes.

Sites including Bonaly Country Park, a former tip at Blinkbonny, Torphin Quarry, Blackford Quarry and the Gilmerton Bing are all being considered as sites for a solar “farm”.

Additionally, the Edinburgh Community Solar Cooperative is scoping 25 council buildings which could soon have solar panels fitted.

In West Lothian, the Harlaw Hydro community project aims to install a small hydroelectric generator at the outflow of Harlaw reservoir, to raise money for local projects. Along the Water of Leith, other groups are considering similar schemes – all of which can help Scotland reach its target of having 500MW of community energy installed by 2020.

With almost a third of Scots households living in fuel poverty, and energy prices rising, it makes perfect sense to bring renewables into our towns and cities. Government support through feed-in tariffs has meant generating their own electricity is an attractive prospect for households and businesses alike.

The introduction of the domestic element of the Renewable Heat Incentive will mean homes which are heated by renewable sources benefit from similar subsidy payments, too.

The case for electricity being generated from renewable sources close to the homes and businesses which use it has never been clearer.

Joss Blamire is senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables.