The Scottish Government will miss a key green energy target if proposed wind power projects fail to attract enough investment, renewables leaders have said.
Industry body Scottish Renewables estimated that without further support for offshore and onshore wind farms, the country would generate the equivalent of 87% of electricity demand from environmentally friendly sources by 2020.
That is short of the target set by ministers of providing the equivalent of 100% of demand from renewables by this date.
Research by Scottish Renewables found the country is on course to generate 33,122 Gigawatt (GWh) hours from sources such as wind power, biomass and hydro electricity by 2020.
But it put demand at a total of 38,256 GWh, and said: “It can be seen that on current projections, Scotland will fall short of its 2020 renewable electricity target, with predicted capacity only sufficient to generate 87% of the equivalent annual demand for power.”
Scottish Renewables said proposed offshore and onshore wind projects could meet the demand, but added these could only go ahead with a long term contract for their power.
Chief executive Niall Stuart said: “The 100% target has provided a powerful focus for government, industry and supporting bodies like HIE and Scottish Enterprise, and really put Scotland’s renewable energy industry on the map.
“However, current projections show that we’re not going to meet it unless we get more projects going ahead between now and 2020.
“There are consented schemes onshore and offshore that could get us there, but they can only go ahead if they are allocated a long term contract for their power.
“The industry had expected an auction round for contracts this autumn, but UK ministers postponed that and we are still unsure if and when that will go ahead – which is inevitably impacting on investor confidence across the industry.”
Mr Stuart said if this process is not under way by next spring “the delay could fatally undermine the timeline for the projects on Scotland’s main island groups, ending prospects for major developments on the Western Isles and Shetland”.
He added: “It would also raise serious questions about whether the proposed offshore wind projects can make the 2020 deadline.
“Essentially it is this simple – if we get an allocation round next spring and enough Scottish projects are successful we can still hit the target.”
The 2020 renewable targets were announced in 2011 by former first minister Alex Salmond, who said at the time: “Because the pace of development has been so rapid, with our 2011 target already exceeded, we can now commit to generating the equivalent of 100% of Scotland’s own electricity demand from renewable resources by 2020.”
Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: “Recent announcements by the UK Government represent an attack on the renewables sector, creating huge uncertainty for investors, developers and communities and undermining Scotland’s ability to fulfil its renewable energy potential.
“Our renewables targets are ambitious and challenging and I am pleased we have seen almost half of our electricity demand coming from renewable sources in 2014. However, I share Scottish Renewables’ concerns that the damaging and premature cuts to support for renewable energy being driven through by the UK Government will hamper future progress.”