Reproduced with permission from Herald Scotland
Terry A’Hearn, Chief Executive, Scottish Environment Protection Agency
The scale of environmental challenge facing humanity is enormous, with a real urgency to act. At the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, we’re determined to help Scotland rise to this challenge by helping to create one of the world's first 'one planet economies' - an economy in which we prosper using the resources our one planet can support.
The energy choices we make today - internationally, nationally, in Scotland’s private, public and voluntary sectors, in communities and in our homes, will directly determine the environmental, social and economic prosperity of tomorrow.
Scotland is a global leader in its commitment to tackling climate change, in protecting and enhancing our environment, in strengthening our international reputation for sustainable growth and in supporting a transition to low-carbon economy.
Scottish businesses have recognised the economic opportunity, with rapid advances in renewables investment and innovation. Total installed renewables capacity stands now at over 10GW, almost three times bigger than it was at the end of 2008. In 2016, renewable energy accounted for 68% of Scottish gross electricity consumption and the sector, excluding hydro, employs over 14,500 people.
As Scotland’s environmental regulator, SEPA is embracing a climate of opportunity for renewables and we’re changing today, creating a world-class environment protection agency fit for the challenges of tomorrow.
First, through our work we’re committed to helping organisations use less energy in the first place. Our pioneering Sustainable Growth Agreement with SuperGlass will see the firm focus on environmental outcomes as an integral part of economic success, including renewable energy. The firm’s Chief Executive, Ken Munro, said “We have shown that delivering hard commercial results and improving environmental performance are complementary objectives.”
Secondly, we’re supporting the development and use of low-carbon energy. SEPA has a regulatory remit to control and monitor aspects of many low carbon and renewable energy technologies but we recognise the potential of our “beyond compliance” work. We’ll seek to make it as easy as possible for people to install low-carbon energy solutions while protecting the environment.
From supporting the sustainable development of anaerobic digestion to tackle food waste, to encouraging innovation in low-carbon heat networks, SEPA can play a significant role in enabling not only positive environmental outcomes, but Scotland’s social and environmental success.
We’ll use partnerships as our principal way of achieving outcomes, working with others such as Scottish Water to deliver three sustainable innovation projects to contribute to One Planet Prosperity. One involves identifying opportunities to recover energy from waste water for use by the business or communities.
We’ll work too with industry, academic and public sector partners, such as our programme with Scottish Natural Heritage to explore the opportunities for extending the life of wind turbines, meaning more efficient output, lower costs and less requirement for replacements.
To be a first-class environmental protection agency and an effective delivery partner for the Scottish Government’s Energy Strategy, we need to use all our regulatory levers, influence and partnerships in a smarter way to bring environmental, social and economic objectives together. Collaborative working through Sustainable Growth Agreements (SGAs), or setting out key areas for improvement in Sector Plans, means we can help businesses move beyond compliance and continue to help translate globally ambitious policy into practice.