Scotland can switch to low carbon energy and meet tough climate targets without harming wildlife, according to a new report.
In line with the rest of the UK, Scotland has a target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent compared to 1990 levels by 2050.
RSPB Scotland has said it strongly supports well-sited renewable energy but poorly-located developments can harm wildlife and damage their habitats, for example through bird collisions with wind turbines.
Entitled the ‘RSPB’s 2050 Energy Vision’, its shows for the first time how renewable technologies could meet the majority of energy needs while avoiding environmental harm.
Scientists assessed where renewable energy technologies such as onshore wind, solar, bioenergy, offshore wind, wave and tidal energy, could be located to avoid sensitive wildlife areas. The results show the UK could generate up to four times its current total energy demand from renewable sources, dependent on a strategic approach to planning.
While a large percentage is for offshore renewables in deeper waters, the research also identifies considerable areas available for established onshore renewables, finding that Scotland could increase its onshore wind capacity by three times and solar capacity by 30 times.
The charity has now set out in its report 10 recommendations for the Scottish Government to decarbonise energy in harmony with nature.
Stuart Housden, director of RSPB Scotland, said: “Our research shows that a low carbon energy future in harmony with nature is possible and we have set out a positive vision for how this can be done without harming Scotland’s special places for wildlife.
“Climate change is one of the single biggest threats to people and nature alike, but with Scotland’s nature in decline, we have a responsibility to invest in an energy system that works for both people and our natural heritage.”
Lindsay Roberts, senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables, said that renewable energy is “absolutely key” to tackling climate change.
She said: “This study shows clearly that meeting our renewable energy targets and protecting our natural environment can go hand in hand. The charity’s work also demonstrates how more mature technologies can play an increasingly important role in our energy mix alongside newer, innovative technologies such as wave energy and storage.”