Scottish renewable energy can be ‘bigger than oil’

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A major study has concluded that the Scottish renewable energy sector has the potential to become a bigger employer than the oil and gas industry.

The study suggests that almost 50,000 jobs will be created in offshore wind alone and also claims that the sector can generate over £7 billion of investment by 2020.


A major study has concluded that the Scottish renewable energy sector has the potential to become a bigger employer than the oil and gas industry.

The study suggests that almost 50,000 jobs will be created in offshore wind alone and also claims that the sector can generate over £7 billion of investment by 2020.

The new research, commissioned by Scottish Renewables and Scottish Enterprise, has urged business and political leaders to seize the country’s biggest economic opportunity in a generation.  It says areas like Aberdeen, Dundee, Peterhead and the Highlands are in pole position to reap the huge financial benefits.

However it warns that the next four years are “critical” in offshore wind and without adequate support and investment, in the form of college and university courses, the potential could be wasted and we could see less than 1000 jobs created.

The report, entitled Scottish Offshore Wind: Creating an Industry, says government and industry must co-operate in order to speed up the planning process for developments, and to teach the new skills that will be required.  It also suggests that major private investment, loans and better infrastructure will also be required.

About £220million of public and private investment will be needed at 11 sites in Scotland: including Nigg, Arnish, Campbeltown and Machrihanish, Ardersier, Kishorn, Peterhead, Dundee and Aberdeen.

The sites have been earmarked to manufacture and service huge wind turbines with a total capacity of 10.6GW over the next decade.

The £750million Energetica project, which aims to create a 30-mile corridor of energy companies between Aberdeen and Peterhead, is also reliant on energy projects reaching Scotland’s north-east ports.

Energy Minister Jim Mather said:
“This report shows the fantastic competitive advantage that exists in Scotland for developing offshore wind.

“It highlights the considerable economic opportunities for Scotland, supporting up to 48,000 Scottish jobs while delivering energy security and cutting emissions.

“Progress is already underway on offshore wind development around Scotland with 11 sites having secured ‘exclusivity agreements’ with The Crown Estate to deliver a total capacity of 10.6GW over the next decade.

Mr Mather echoed the warnings that major investment is crucial in ensuring success and also urged the UK government to release Scotland’s Fossil Fuel Levy fund and address the unfair grid connection charges imposed on energy suppliers in Scotland.

Mr Mather said:
“Unlocking the potential of offshore wind requires investment from both the private and public sector. This report underlines the case for early investment and therefore it’s now urgent for the Treasury to release Scotland’s £185 million Fossil Fuel Levy to further develop the renewables industry.

“It is also essential that the Westminster Government delivers a level playing field when it comes to the costs of supplying energy to the grid – that means ending the system whereby punitive charges are imposed on energy suppliers in Scotland, while those in other parts of the UK are paid subsidies.”

Jenny Hogan, director of policy at Scottish Renewables, has warned that Scotland’s biggest economic opportunity in a generation could not be taken for granted.

She said: “Other parts of the UK and ports all over Europe are all fighting tooth and nail to secure investment and the economic benefits.

“If we are to grow employment to these levels over the next 10 years, we need schools, colleges and universities to focus on delivering the skills that this new industry requires.”

Adrian Gillespie, senior director of energy and low-carbon technologies at Scottish Enterprise, said Scotland was in a “wonderful position” to reap the benefits of the move to low-carbon electricity.

Inverness Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stewart Nicol underlined the importance of offshore wind to the Highland economy.

He said: “This study confirms just how important this sector can be for the Scottish and the Highland economy.

“We have campaigned for a long time now for the redevelopment of Nigg yard to provide the fabrication and construction facilities which will allow the Highlands to access the jobs and investment.”

Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Future – which is behind the Energetica project – welcomed the report. Its development manager, Rita Stephen, said: “We are working on several fronts to ensure we are able to fully exploit the opportunities in renewables and position the region as a global all-energy hub, renowned for offshore oil and gas expertise but also recognised as pioneers in offshore and marine renewables. This involves putting the right infrastructure in place and making sure we attract and develop skilled people to meet demand.”

WWF Scotland director Dr Richard Dixon said: “This report confirms our long-held belief that Scotland is on the verge of something truly huge when it comes to creating thousands of jobs while generating green electricity. However, to ensure Scotland is able to fully tap into this job-creating, low-carbon future, it is vital politicians do all they can to secure the investment and develop the necessary infrastructure.”

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