Royal Society of Edinburgh Inquiry : Scotland’s Energy Future

Craig Denham, Muir Russell, Rebecca Lunn, Simon Harley, Gareth Harrison, Gavin Little, Stephen McArthur, Peter Smith, Karen Turner, John Underhill, Janette Webb

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

Abstract / Description of output

A major inquiry by the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), Scotland’s National Academy, into Scotland’s future energy requirements has highlighted that no energy policy, no matter how well-considered, will be capable of solving all the issues of energy supply and use and that difficult and costly choices will have to be made.

The report warns that there are no easy options and all decisions will require compromise and trade-offs, each with significant consequences. However, the challenges present an opportunity for Scotland to explore and develop world-leading, innovative solutions.

The report sets out the significant challenges faced by Scotland, and the rest of the world, as it looks to continue to produce the energy it requires, while attempting to meet its carbon reduction targets. Even under the most ambitious of plans to reduce demand and use energy more efficiently, Scotland will need energy for heat, transport and electricity and a decision must be made on how this will be sourced. The expected major increase in demand for electricity, coupled with Scotland’s electricity generating capacity decreasing due to the closures, and planned closures, of various power stations serves to make the issue more pressing.

The advantages and drawbacks of the options available to Scotland have been explored by the inquiry and highlight that emerging low-carbon technologies, which are required to meet important carbon reduction targets, may be the preferred solutions but are likely to be significantly more expensive in the short-term than current methods. For example, carbon capture and storage (CCS) coupled with hydrogen production as a heat source could limit damage to the climate but would require a high level of investment; a rapid move towards transport and heat electrification may require more than doubling Scotland’s electricity generating capacity and substantial new infrastructure; and while wind energy (offshore and onshore) can play a significant role in meeting increased demand and reducing emissions, its variable nature means another form of generation or significant investments in energy storage would likely be required in tandem.

Policy makers are being urged to consider all options and how best to meet the competing issues of addressing climate change, ensuring affordability, safeguarding security of supply, and developing policy that is socially acceptable and economically sustainable. As a result, the RSE has cautioned that all compromises and consequences must be fully understood, discussed and accepted in order to achieve an informed decision on Scotland’s energy future and advised that government must rely on robust scientific evidence when developing and implementing energy policy. To this end, the report recommends the establishment of an independent, expert advisory commission on energy for Scotland which could consider all aspects of energy policy.

Other recommendations include: the need for timely and well-considered decisions by Scottish and UK governments on how and in what to invest; prioritisation of climate protection targets; investment in new low-carbon energy generating capacity; a reduction in the demand for energy; and improved standards for lowering the net energy consumption of housing and infrastructure that are enforced and regularly updated.

The RSE also calls on the Scottish and UK governments to improve political cooperation to ensure robust and sustainable energy policy can be developed and implemented.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationEdinburgh
PublisherRoyal Society of Edinburgh
Number of pages124
ISBN (Electronic)978–1–5272–4299–9
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2019


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