The average Shetlander is responsible for over 22 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year – almost as high as that for energy-hungry North America and more than four times the Western European figure, a stark new report outlines.
Unst-based PURE Energy has carried out a study comparing energy use between 1990 and 2008, the two years for which the most detailed data was available. The first detailed analysis of its kind, it shows that emissions rose from 323,000 tonnes to just under 507,000 tonnes in the space of 18 years, a rise of 57 per cent. The figures exclude throughput at Sullom Voe Oil Terminal.
A presentation to the isles’ general industry panel from PURE’s Ross Gazey today highlighted the fact that Shetland is almost entirely reliant on energy produced externally to heat its homes and power its transport – leaving it highly vulnerable to increasingly volatile global commodity prices.
Mr Gazey showed that 96 per cent of energy comes from outside sources, while in 2008 the community spent a startling £84 million on energy – equating to almost £4,000 for each person in Shetland. Spending rose by £17 million from 2007 to 2008 amid the global economic meltdown.
Key industries such as fishing, agriculture and construction rely heavily on fuel oils, as do individuals for heating their homes. The new research highlights that emissions from burning peat have fallen as householders transferred to gas oil, kerosene or electric and district heating to keep warm.
The findings come as councillors grapple with tackling fuel poverty which afflicts thousands of people living in the cold, exposed North Sea climate, and at a time when political instability in North Africa and the Middle East has caused oil prices to spiral. PURE business development manager Elizabeth Johnson said the report was designed to provide a “baseline” for policy-makers.
She told The Shetland Times: “It’s a lot of energy use, but that is because of where we live, the weather, the type of industry that’s here. Really the reason we’re doing this is to get a baseline figure to start from regarding energy use.
“We see this as a starting point for looking in more detail at where the energy is used and the benefits to the community that this could bring. We hope that this report will be used by the policy-makers to develop efficient, effective policies for Shetland.”
PURE’s report suggests greening the isles’ electricity grid and reducing demand for gas oil for heating could potentially save customers money. At present only four per cent of energy is produced locally – through the Burradale windfarm, smaller renewables and limited peat use, combined with the district heating scheme. Back in 1990 only peat and small-scale renewables in Fair Isle and Foula contributed.
Automobile use provides a small success story: improvements in fuel economy and a major shift from petrol-based cars to diesel-powered vehicles means overall fuel consumption has declined, despite there being more vehicles on Shetland’s roads now than two decades ago.
The industry panel also heard from Dr Ross Halliday of Natural Power, who delivered a presentation mapping out wave and tidal resources around Shetland. Representatives of Pelamis and Vattenfall delivered an update on joint plans for a 10 MegaWatt wave farm project south of Burra.
Many councillors have long been convinced that clean energy technology represents a huge opportunity for the isles, especially if an interconnector cable – reliant on Viking
Energy’s controversial windfarm – gets the go-ahead.
In a statement the council said Shetland was “poised on the brink of a revolution in sea-based renewable energy” which could bring “enormous benefits” to the community. It is to start promoting its marine resources at the All Energy Event in Aberdeen on 18th and 19th May.
Development committee chairman Josie Simpson, freshly promoted to the new role of SIC political leader, said last week that a recent trip to a UK marine energy conference in London had reinforced his view.
He said: “Marine renewable energy is very important for Shetland. Today’s presentations demonstrate that our industries and communities consume a lot of energy, but that we have a huge opportunity in front of us to make Shetland a renewables powerhouse, not just for our own needs, but meeting those of the rest of the UK.
“However, to accomplish that we need an interconnector cable to the Scottish mainland. That is essential to turn our enormous potential into a profitable reality.”