John Underhill
Professor John Underhill

There are no easy options when it comes to solving Scotland's future energy needs.

That is according to a new report published this week by the educational charity, the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE).

Heriot-Watt's Professor John Underhill was one of the distinguished technical experts who contributed to Scotland's Energy Future. The 124-page document sets out the energy landscape and 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.

It is evident that challenging decisions lie ahead as the country strives to balance decarbonising the energy system with the continuing need to fuel the economy.

Professor John Underhill

It highlights that no energy policy, no matter how well-considered, will be capable of solving all the issues of energy supply and that difficult and costly choices will have to be made. Despite this, it states these same challenges present an opportunity for Scotland to explore and develop world-leading, innovative solutions.

Professor John Underhill, Heriot-Watt’s Chair of Exploration Geoscience and member of the RSE Energy Inquiry Committee said: “It’s been a privilege to be part of the RSE team that has convened over the past two years. Our work has highlighted the energy options that are available to Scotland. It is evident that challenging decisions lie ahead as the country strives to balance decarbonising the energy system with the continuing need to fuel the economy.”

The RSE reports warns that 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.

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.

The RSE has also called on the Scottish and UK governments to improve political cooperation to ensure robust and sustainable energy policy can be developed and implemented.