Scotland just blew up its last coal-fired power plant – as the country transitions to renewable energy

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Johny Wood, Senior Writer, Formative Content

  • Half a century after it was constructed, the Longannet coal-fired power plant in Fife has been demolished.
  • The explosion marked the end of coal-fired power generation in Scotland.
  • Renewable energy output in Scotland has more than tripled in the past decade. In 2020, renewables generated 97% of the country’s gross energy consumption.
  • Scotland aims to be ‘net-zero’ by 2045.

Scotland’s last remaining coal-fired power plant has been blown up, a visual reminder of the country’s transition away from fossil fuels to embrace net-zero emissions.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pushed the button on a controlled explosion that reduced the decommissioned 600-foot Longannet chimney to rubble.

Scottish Power closed the plant in 2016, marking the end of coal-fired power generation in the country.

A gas-fired power plant in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire is the last remaining link to a fossil-fuelled past, and policymakers’ sights are set firmly on a clean energy future.

In 2020, the equivalent of 97.4% of Scotland’s gross electricity consumption was generated from renewables like onshore and offshore wind and hydro. Although falling just short of the 100% renewables by 2020 target, this figure – corrected from a previously declared lower figure of 93.2% – has been increasing rapidly throughout the past decade, up from just 37% in 2011.

Share of renewable electricity in gross final consumption

Renewable energy output in Scotland has tripled in the past decade.
Renewable energy output in Scotland has tripled in the past decade. Image: Scottish Government

Sustainable energy has tripled in the past 10 years, according to industry body Scottish Renewables.

“Renewable energy projects are displacing tens of millions of tonnes of carbon every year, employing the equivalent of 17,700 people and bringing enormous socio-economic benefits to communities,” Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables Claire Mack, told the BBC.

Cutting future emissions

Scotland’s ambitious Climate Change Plan establishes a legally binding target of reaching net-zero emissions – where more CO2 emissions are removed from the atmosphere than are generated – by 2045.

Hitting this target means policymakers will need to put measures in place to decarbonize hard-to-electrify sectors like heat and transport, by switching to alternative fuels like clean hydrogen, for example.

The governing Scottish National Party has joined with Green Party Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) to support the country’s transition to a net-zero economy. A $660 million (£500 million) energy transition fund will help refocus the high-carbon economies of fossil-fuel industries like oil and gas in Aberdeen and the north-east of Scotland. The fund will boost jobs and investment in developing low-carbon technologies like offshore wind and marine renewables, hydrogen and carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS).

Scotland aims to generate half of the country’s total energy consumption from emissions-free renewable sources by 2030, en route to achieving its 2045 net-zero target.

Globally, 2020 saw a 45% increase in new annual renewable capacity to 280GW, according to the International Energy Agency’s Renewables Energy Market Update 2021, which is the highest year-on-year increase since 1999. The report predicts that renewables will account for 90% of all new power capacity expansion in 2022, reinforcing global momentum to address climate change by embracing cleaner forms of energy.

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