Messing about in boats

19/01/16 | Blog

Scotland's 250-year-old canals could be at the centre of an energy revolution if a new Environment Strategy, published by Scottish Canals, achieves its 2025 goals. With one of the most iconic civil engineering feats of the last century already playing its part, there's plenty of reason for optimism, as SR Policy Manager Stephanie Clark writes.

Scotland has more canals than Venice and Panama combined, as well as some of the most striking inland waterway technology in the UK.

Scottish Canals, who run the 137-mile waterway system, recently published a 10-year Environment Strategy to address their performance in waste management, water quality, energy use and more.

The organisation is keen to see canals used as catalysts for sustainable development in communities across Scotland by persuading more people to use what Richard Millar, Director of Heritage, Enterprise and Sustainability, calls these “unique and precious blue and green corridors”.

Renewable energy has a part to play here.

The Environment Strategy aims to help Scottish Canals contribute to climate change mitigation through improved energy efficiency and increased renewable energy generation.

With more than 3,000 fixed assets, including bridges, buildings, locks and water supply reservoirs, in locations across Scotland, the organisation’s energy supply is ripe for modernisation.

Under the strategy Scottish Canals will reduce its electricity and gas demand in line with government targets, by 12% (compared to a 2013/14 baseline) by 2020 and by 20% by 2025. By that date, the canal system also expects to be sourcing 50% of its static energy needs from renewable sources, too.

With graphs in the report showing 78.5% of the energy used on the waterways is in the form of electricity, gas or heating oil, that commitment is a substantial one.
In fact, Scottish Canals is already doing its bit for energy awareness – and using its most recognisable feature to do so.

Visitors to the Falkirk Wheel, the world’s only rotating boat lift, are told how the delicate balance of the 1,800-tonne machine enables it to lift 250 tonnes of water and boats 79ft up a hillside using only 1.5kWh of electricity – the same as boiling eight kettles.

It’s heartening to know that the organisation will be working towards the aims contained in the latest Environment Strategy for the next decade.
But it’s also good to know that the technology already installed by the organisation at one of Scotland’s most popular tourist attractions is already playing its part in demand reduction in a very public way.