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The answer's not just blowing in the wind

SCOTTISHPOWER chief executive Ian Russell has warned that the government’s ambitious targets for green energy are at risk unless other forms of renewable energy other than wind power are developed.

Russell, who heads the UK’s largest developer of windfarms, said the huge growth planned in windpower alone would not be able to meet the UK target of 20% of electricity being generated from renewable sources by 2020.

"We would need to see development of other technologies such as wave, tidal and biomass to get us to that target," he said.

Russell also said it was "sensible that the government was leaving the door open on nuclear power" while it focused on reducing carbon emissions from electricity generation. Some commentators have argued that investment in new nuclear stations is the only way the government will be able to meet its green energy targets.

It wants to see 10% of the UK’s electricity generated from renewable energy by 2010.

The Scottish Executive has set a target for Scotland to supply 18% of its power from renewable sources - including existing hydro and wind - by 2010 and 40% by 2020 to help meet overall UK targets.

Last month ScottishPower announced it was joining forces with Edinburgh-based wavepower developer Ocean Power Delivery and engineering group Amec to investigate the feasibility of a large-scale trial of wave power off Scotland.

Russell believes the 10% target by 2010 will be achieved if planning approval is given for major schemes and for the infrastructure upgrades needed. But he claims the far more stretching target of 20% by 2020 would be difficult without the successful development of new technologies.

Last month Ian Marchant, chief executive of Scottish & Southern Energy, warned that the 2010 target was "too ambitious".

He predicted the Scottish Executive would fall "just short" of its 18% target.

Russell’s comments came as the company unveiled plans to invest £400m to upgrade cables and sub-stations in southern Scotland to cope with the huge increase in renewable power schemes planned north of the border and to supply England and Wales with green energy to help meet overall UK targets.

The growth in renewable generation needed to meet those targets and the investment needed in infrastructure - including ScottishPower’s upgrade plans - will see electricity bills rise over the years ahead by an estimated 10-20% with the cost spread across all UK electricity consumers. But Russell said he believed it was a price worth paying "for a better planet".

"Society has passed the point where it knows it needs more renewable generation."

The Glasgow utility’s plans, which will see lines upgraded with larger pylons in some areas and new sub-stations built, will inevitably face some opposition from residents in some of the areas affected.

Similar proposals put forward by Scottish and Southern Energy to upgrade the network from Ullapool in Ross-shire to Beauly, west of Inverness, and from Beauly to Denny in Stirlingshire have sparked outrage among villagers who claim they will ruin the countryside.

Russell said ScottishPower’s proposals represented the "most environmentally friendly way of doing it, if we want a better environment for our children".

The company said "wherever possible" it was upgrading existing transmission lines rather than building new ones. One new line is being proposed from Kilmarnock and Kendoon in Dumfries and Galloway.

The work will also see expansion of capacity on the interconnector, which enables electricity to be transmitted to and from England and Wales.

Industry regulator Ofgem is currently examining ScottishPower’s proposals and how they would be funded.

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