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Scotland can lead world in renewables

THE SNP's energy policy has received a major boost after a leading think tank forecast that Scotland could earn £2 billion a year exporting electricity and become a world leader in new-energy technology.

However, the report by Reform Scotland warns the potential will only be realised if energy policy is fully devolved from Westminster.

It says that with its natural resources, research talent and energy companies, Scotland has the potential to become a world leader in renewables.

It claims this would be a realistic possibility if the Scottish Government's ambition of reaching 100% renewable energy target by 2020 is met.

The report is welcome news for the Government after a recent warning from financiers Citigroup that energy giants should rethink investing in Scotland after raising fears over independence and Alex Salmond's "unaffordable" renewables policy.

One of the Reform Scotland study's authors, Graeme Blackett, said: "We would support the aim of a substantial increase in energy exports with a target of around half of electricity generated in Scotland being exported because, even using conservative assumptions on price, this would increase Scottish exports by £2bn per annum, equivalent to around 17% of manufacturing exports to the rest of the UK.

"Given that some of the current fossil fuel and nuclear capacity will still be available in 2020, this is feasible if the 100% renewables target set by the Scottish Government is met."

The report says with the right policies, Scotland can be Europe's biggest exporter of low-carbon electricity.

For that to be achieved, between 50% and 75% of electricity generated in Scotland would have to be made from low-carbon sources so that enough electricity was generated from renewable sources to exceed Scottish demand.

Mr Blackett said the policy of renewable energy development had to be extended. He said: "The Scottish Government was right to encourage the further acceleration of renewable energy generation by increasing the 2020 renewables target to 100%.

"A large proportion of that target can be achieved by wind power, on-shore over the next few years and increasing off-shore as 2020 approaches, and so to encourage investment and to signal that Scotland is an attractive location for the development and deployment of new and emerging technologies, the Scottish Government should set longer-term targets.

"That would include increased support for research and development, a strategy for skills provision from universities and colleges and accelerated planning arrangements for renewable projects."

The report concludes: "Scotland could become a case study in sustainable development and export the technology and know-how around the world."

Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said Scotland was already attracting massive investment in renewables, including from major international companies such as Doosan Power Systems, Gamesa, and Mitsubishi.

He added: "Transferring powers to the Scottish Parliament over energy would enable us to go even further and make energy markets work better for Scottish consumers, industry and the Scottish economy."

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