By Niall Stuart

It’s becoming increasingly clear that, when 2020 arrives, Scotland will have missed its much-vaunted 100 per cent renewable electricity target.

Though the reasons for that may be up for debate, few people would deny that the 100 per cent target has provided a hugely powerful focus for government and industry and helped create the green energy industry we have today; one that provides half of our electricity and supports 21,000 jobs.

With almost exactly four months to go until May’s Holyrood elections, and four years until the end of the decade, now is the time to set ourselves new challenges.

In the manifesto we publish today ahead of that election, we set out the case for extending our horizons beyond existing targets for 2020 and for the setting of a new vision for renewable energy in Scotland to 2030.

At its heart, that vision should be designed to continue the development of our established renewable technologies while supporting the growth of new parts of the industry.

But it must also reflect the need for a more strategic approach to how we increase renewables’ share of our energy needs, and the changes we need to make in the way we distribute, store and use energy as we move away from fossil fuels to cleaner alternatives.

We believe that, by 2030, half of all the energy consumed in Scotland, in the form of electricity and heat, and by our transport sector, should come from renewable sources.

Meeting this goal would require a tripling of green energy from 2014; achievable, given that the latest figures show we will be more than halfway there by 2020.

This new objective would be a natural next step from the country’s existing 2020 renewables targets and would be the most effective way to both tackle carbon emissions and maintain secure energy supplies.

Our manifesto sets out our ideas on how Scotland can best achieve this – and many other – new aspirations by focusing on the need for ambition, leadership, increased competitiveness and innovation.

Not only will these measures support growth in the next chapter of our industry; they will also ensure that renewables can play a key role in meeting Scotland’s climate-change targets and maximising the jobs and investment our sector can deliver.

Some of those measures are straightforward and we hope they’ll receive cross-party support. Communities, for example, are already taking control of their energy use, demonstrated by the announcement last October that Scotland had surpassed its target of generating 500MW of locally and community owned renewable energy five years early.

We want to expand community and local ownership of renewable energy projects though the creation of a Scottish Renewable Energy Bond that would allow savers to generate returns from the growth of the UK’s renewable energy sector, as well as bring in capital to finance future development at an attractive rate.

Our public sector, too, has a role to play: Scottish Renewables would like to see local authorities, NHS boards and the Scottish Government act as exemplars, spearheading the growth of renewable energy through a target for its use in heat, power and transport for public bodies.

Scottish Renewables research last year showed just one per cent of local authority buildings are heated by renewable sources, a figure we’d like to see increase dramatically.

We also believe that our transport sector should receive more help to decarbonise.

We would like to see the contribution of sustainable transport acknowledged by allowing the use of bus lanes, providing free parking and expanding the provision of charging and re-fuelling points for low-carbon vehicles.

No one should be under any illusion: the challenges ahead are great and, while transport, electricity and heat all have contributions to make, no sector on its own can deliver the overall changes we need to ensure the continued growth of renewable energy.

However, we believe that the continued growth of renewable energy should and will be be one of the defining features of our economy over coming years, and that our industry can be at the centre of efforts to build the progressive, inclusive and successful Scotland we want to see.

We look forward to the debate and to working with the next Scottish Government on the vital task of defining the future of renewable energy in this country.

Niall Stuart is chief executive of Scottish Renewables.