THE story of energy, and our relationship with it, is a long journey that reaches way back to darker, colder days. If, however, it once took longer to reach those lightbulb moments and illuminate the way forward, recent history has seen sudden and sustained flashes of brilliance.

These gamechangers in technology and expertise not only offer power, but are helping us reach out to a Net Zero future. One of the leading lights is ScottishPower Renewables and its CEO Lindsay McQuade is rightly proud of the progress being pioneered by her organisation.

“We’re one of the top renewable generators in the country and the biggest operator of assets onshore,” she notes.

“A lot of that onshore capacity has been developed over the past 20 years, so we have a real history in renewable generation. While renewables may still feel a bit new to people, for us at ScottishPower Renewables the entire concept is in our DNA. It’s part of what we do. It’s our business as usual.”

Lindsay believes public awareness and consideration of where energy comes from is changing our relationship with it. It’s no longer just about kettles and TVs – it’s about connectivity and data, transportation and the uptake of electric vehicles, and heating our homes – and the source of that electricity really matters to customers.

HeraldScotland:  Turbine blades arrive for ScottishPower’s ambitious Halsary Windfarm project, situated south of Spittal Village in Caithness. The windfarm has been designed to complement the nearby consented and operational windfarms. The turbine locations are influenced by the results of extensive environmental and technical surveys. When operational, the tracks at Halsary Windfarm will be available for recreational use by members of the public and a small car park, just off the A9, will make accessing these tracks even easier. Restoring the site to blanket bog will return the site to its natural state and allow greater habitat connectivity with the surrounding peatlands. As responsible developers of renewable energy, ScottishPower strives to a be a good neighbour in all aspects of its work. Turbine blades arrive for ScottishPower’s ambitious Halsary Windfarm project, situated south of Spittal Village in Caithness. The windfarm has been designed to complement the nearby consented and operational windfarms. The turbine locations are influenced by the results of extensive environmental and technical surveys. When operational, the tracks at Halsary Windfarm will be available for recreational use by members of the public and a small car park, just off the A9, will make accessing these tracks even easier. Restoring the site to blanket bog will return the site to its natural state and allow greater habitat connectivity with the surrounding peatlands. As responsible developers of renewable energy, ScottishPower strives to a be a good neighbour in all aspects of its work.

“Renewable generation is the catalyst with which we can all have a cleaner, greener, more sustainable lifestyle, whether that’s in the workplace or at home, though they are perhaps the same for many just now – pretty much every aspect of our lives has to be electrified if we are to achieve Net Zero.

“With an increasing requirement for renewable electricity to make that happen, innovation has been, and will continue to be, central to making sure the transition happenS in as clean a way as possible.”

ScottishPower Renewables has over 40 windfarms across the UK, with the majority in Scotland, and there’s a good reason for that: Scotland has 1% of Europe’s landmass yet 25% of its wind.

Lindsay points out: “Not only are we capturing the wonderful natural resources we have onshore, but we also have a fantastic coastline where we’re able to deploy offshore wind turbines as well. 

“We are going to need to develop, invest and operate at pace in the next decade.”

Lindsay believes it’s important for ScottishPower Renewables not only to think about the clean mega-watt hours generation, but also how her assets interact with the overall electricity system.

“We’ve had to think about not just the raw power we generate, but also the interplay of renewable generation and its characteristics with the overall grid system and demand profiles – when power is needed and used.”

This has seen ScottishPower Renewables innovate and invest in new technologies, alongside its existing wind assets, such as battery storage and solar PV.

“We’ve our ‘super battery’ currently under development at Whitelee and another three battery construction projects under way with plans to do more. Deploying those batteries at strategic points around the grid network, next to our renewable generation, will allow us to then have ways of making sure clean green generation from those natural resources is available when it’s needed.”

These are the kind of activities ScottishPower Renewables is doing at utility scale.  However, Lindsay points to other exciting developments as we use more electricity in our homes by switching to cleaner transport choices, whether that’s via a bike or car. “You can change your relationship with your vehicle because you won’t be jumping into the car to go to a petrol station; you’ll be plugging it in in your home.

“You’ll effectively have a battery, providing storage, in that car or bike.

“There are huge opportunities, and exciting new markets to explore, so consumers are going to change how they think about energy as well.”

This means that often, just as important as innovating and creating the actual infrastructure, it’s important to explain to the public as the consumers of electricity why we need this to happen.

“If we’re doing something and it’s not understood, people can be nervous of change and be worried about new technologies. It’s about explaining and bringing everybody on the journey to Net Zero.

“Customers and communities and stakeholders all have questions and a huge part of what I do is about telling our story and myth-busting.

“That is my job and I’ve seen us really transform this business, transform our generation model, and transform where we all get our electricity from at home or at work.”

Having set headline targets and headline objectives, Lindsay says the company will be focusing on shaping the frameworks, markets and policies to make it all happen.

“We need to unlock investment, remove any barriers to that investment so we can have appropriately sited projects that come through in a cost-effective manner, the supply chains to have the confidence to keep investing and be there when we need them and create the jobs that will then be associated with these gigawatts of power we’ll be looking to deploy going forward.

“Electricity is an essential for us all in the year 2020, and demand for it is going to increase as we move away from fossil fuels.

“Over the next 30 years, we need to double the requirement for electricity as we electrify transport and heat – and we need to quadruple the amount of renewable generation on the network to make that happen in a clean sustainable way.

“ScottishPower Renewables is ready to deliver with projects under way to create clean energy parks as we hybridise technologies and unify wind with solar, with batteries, so we can give everybody the electricity they need. That will deliver jobs, investment and economic benefit all across the country.”

There’s a strong community element to this work too and being a good neighbour really matters to Lindsay.

“ScottishPower Renewables has so far distributed £38 million of voluntary community benefits to community trusts set up by those who live in the vicinity of our windfarms, to be used for what’s needed in their local area.

“Most of our windfarms are in predominately rural areas where these funds can make a real difference, supporting sustainable projects that help communities beyond the positive impact our developments have on the climate emergency.”

Talking about the climate emergency, Lindsay notes: “It’s not someone else’s problem – we all have to fix it – and that’s what the team at ScottishPower Renewables work to do every day. And the renewables industry is going to grow fantastically over the next ten, fifteen, twenty years as we provide access to even more green energy.

“We have an exciting pipeline of projects that will deliver clean electricity for millions of homes from onshore, offshore, storage and solar PV, supporting homes and businesses to electrify their lives and ensure we can have the sustainable future we all need.

“And with that collective ambition, we can’t fail.” 

This article appeared in the recent Scottish Power "Countdown to Net Zero" publication which you can view online HERE