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Clean energy: can we go 100% renewable?


Right now, in Europe and elsewhere around the world, governments and politicians are poised to make decisions that could have a profound impact on whether or not we successfully protect our children and grandchildren from the dangerous and uncontrollable impacts of climate change.

If we are to be successful then one thing we need to do is change where we get our energy from, and quickly.

A wind farm in ScotlandWind power is Scotland’s largest renewable energy source currently. © Global Warming Images / WWF-Canon

In 2011, WWF crunched the numbers and concluded in its groundbreaking study – The Energy Report – that by 2050 all of the world’s energy needs could be provided cleanly, renewably and – affordably. The report also looked at the barriers to such a transition. One of the biggest barriers was that globally more money was being invested in dirty fossil fuels than in clean renewables. This is still the case today and is why in 2013, WWF launched its international Seize Your Power campaign.

A few months after the publication of WWF’s ‘Energy Report’, the Scottish Government announced it was raising its renewable electricity target to 100% of Scotland’s consumption by 2020.  Not only was this a welcome statement of ambition, but a clear acknowledgement of just how far Scotland had come in harnessing the power of nature.

After all, it was only ten years earlier that Scotland had set its very first renewable electricity target – a (rather modest, by today’s standards) 17.5% by 2010. Yet, by 2010, Scotland was actually producing over a quarter of its needs from renewables. By 2011, it was over a third.

A graph showing the growth in electricity generated in Scotland from renewablesGrowth in electricity generated in Scotland from renewables

So, how did all this happen?

How, even without possessing all the powers over energy, was Scotland able to triple the amount of electricity generated by renewables in a decade and as well as set itself the challenge of meeting 100% of its needs from renewables within the next ten years?

Our new, short report: ‘Scotland: a renewable powerhouse’ attempts to tell the story of how it became politically credible for Scottish to set a 100% target.

In preparing the report many of the key players and stakeholders involved in Scotland’s renewables revolution were interviewed (including current and past Energy Ministers, opposition parties, industry reps and NGOs). Using their insights, we’ve attempted to draw out the key enabling factors that have helped get renewables in Scotland to where they are today.

As we discovered, progress has come about not just because of financial support and ambitious targets but also because of leadership, a collaborative approach between politicians, industry and civic society, and the combination of economic opportunity and the impact of enshrining the imperative of tackling climate change in law. The report also goes onto describe some of the key policy approaches.

Our report isn’t meant to be a tool kit for success. It is simply meant to tell a story, rather than be a prescriptive description of policy steps, the intention being that it can be interpreted and applied to differing national contexts.

We hope the story it tells inspires and resonates with efforts around the world for a future safe from dangerous climate change and where everyone has access to clean, affordable, renewable power.

Download our report (1.4MB pdf) and, please do tell us what you think about it by adding a comment (below)…

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