12 Nov 20 | Opinion
The whisky industry in Scotland has set some ambitious resource-use targets. With some innovative solutions, it is on track to achieve them
Figures published in early 2015 by the Scottish government showed that whisky is Scotland's biggest export success – worth £4.2bn in 2013, even excluding sales to the rest of the United Kingdom.
Achieving a sustainable whisky industry is therefore more than just a sectoral concern – it is an issue of the national interest. Furthermore, because the inputs that go into whisky are, generally, minimally processed and locally sourced – cereals, water, yeast and energy – a healthy whisky sector is arguably a bellweather for a healthy environment in Scotland.
One goal in particular, that 20% of the sector’s energy needs should be met from non-fossil fuel sources by 2020, has triggered experimentation with the generation of power from industry by-products.
Initiatives put in place by distillers have used draff, which is the cereal-husk residue, and pot ale, the fermented leftovers from the still, as biomass to generate energy. The CORD consortium (standing for “combination of Rothes distillers”), for example, constructed a combined heat and power plant based on biomass, which powers the CORD distilleries and produces significant excess power that is sold to the UK National Grid.
A different approach has been employed by drinks giant Diageo at its Roseisle malt distillery in northern Scotland. By-products are converted through anaerobic digestion into methane and water. The methane part-powers the distillery, and the water is reused in the distilling process. Effluent discharges from the distillery have largely been eliminated.
There remains more for the industry to do – packaging unit weight, for example, is down 1% since 2008, leaving some way to go to reach a target of a 10% weight cut by 2020.
Scotch's sector-wide push “does make a difference,” she adds. It “raises the bar of good practice within the sector,” and “allows companies to advance research and understanding”. She points out that lessons are shared within the industry for mutual benefit, a further example of forward thinking.
We can all raise a glass to that.