Scotland is blessed with enormous renewable resources but…

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Sam Taylor not so bright spark at These Islands
Sam Taylor not so bright spark at These Islands

Molly Pollock takes apart the nonsense argument of the Chief Executive of unionist organisation, These Islands, that because Scotland has more energy than it needs it needs the people of England to help consume it. That is not an argument for the union, as the audience clearly understood, but an argument for Scotland’s energy exports. Europe is a much bigger market anyway and something These Islands fails to comprehend.

“Scotland is blessed with enormous renewable resources but it’s not blessed with a great many people, and people ultimately use electricity… So the best way to harness Scotland’s renewable resources is to look at it from a UK wide perspective. Scotland’s got all the renewable resources but the rest of the UK is going to use that electricity so the problem is better tackled at a UK wide level.”
Sam Taylor, Chief Executive of these Islands

Well, when you’ve picked your chin up off the ground after reading that quote you might be wondering who These Islands is.

According to its website: “These Islands is a forum for debate founded in the conviction that no crisis should be allowed to go to waste. It stands unabashedly for the view that more unites the three nations of Great Britain than divides them, and that good relations between the various communities of Northern Ireland, Great Britain, and Ireland are all the more important to work for in the wake of Brexit.”

Apart from Sam Taylor, other leading figures are Kevin Hague (Chairman), Jim Gallagher, and archaeologist, writer and broadcaster Neil Oliver.

Its Chief Executive Sam Taylor was for nearly seventeen years a portfolio manager with The Portand House Group Pty Ltd before taking up the position with These Islands in July 2017.

The Portland House Group Pty Ltd is one of Australia’s largest Private Funds Management Groups, said to be a sophisticated investor in the global markets. Primarily trading in equities, it also has activities in fixed income, external funds, currencies and their derivatives.

So according to Sam Taylor Scotland can’t be independent as it has an embarassment of renewable resources. A surplus of electricity, like a surplus of oil and gas, is seen by unionists as a ‘problem’, one too complex for poor little Scotland to deal with.

Energy is a commodity

So how does that work in countries like Saudi Arabia, a country of around 32 million people that produces more oil than it can use? It doesn’t feel the need to allow a more populous country, for example nearby Egypt with 102 million of a population, to take Saudi oil and decide what should be done with it. Saudi Arabia exports its oil for money to bolster its economy.

Scotland produces much more whisky and salmon than it could possibly consume. But manufacturers don’t go running to the UK government asking if they will help them dispose of it. Scotland sells these products around the world, renowned for the high quality of our food and drink. So why should we need the UK government to tell us what to do with our excess renewable energy?

Scotland’s surplus energy is a commodity like manufactured goods and food and drink products, so can be sold to other countries – to England, to Norway to connect with Norwegian hydrogen for onward export to Europe. Germany is interested in using our renewable energy as hydrogen.

Despite the recent huge hike in gas prices, prices for renewable energy, from which Scotland already generates 98% of its own electricity demand, has for some time had prices below the wholesale price of electricity. Prices for wind, solar, and tidal have hardly moved. According to an article in Energy Voice by Dick Winchester, a former subsea engineer and an adviser to the Scottish Government on the energy transition: “Scotland could go a long way to solving this problem by taking a lot of renewables off grid, not connecting a large part of the ScotWind and future project capacity to the grid but using it instead for hydrogen production.”

Winchester goes on to argue that Green and Blue Hydrogen could then be used to displace natural gas and oil for heat, transport and for “export to Europe to help them displace Russian gas faster.” But the pace of hydrogen production needs to be accelerated by the Scottish Government. Using our renewable resources in this way makes strategic sense as it would solve “our own Net Zero issues and by exporting the excess we can help wean our friends in Europe off Russian gas.”

Scotland’s already onto it

There are positive signs for Scotland’s renewables with the initiation of an ambitious international collaboration project that could unlock access for Scottish firms to a multi-billion pound green hydrogen market.

At the end of last year Scottish Enterprise launched a scheme, led by industry from both Scotland and Germany and supported by the public sector, to explore future export opportunities for Scotland’s green hydrogen. Called ‘Scot2Ger’, the project is also backed by Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and South of Scotland Enterprise.

Another Energy Voice article reports that Scottish Power, a subsidiary of Spanish energy giant Iberdrola, Wood, KPMG Germany and DS Consulting will lead the initiative to “examine the emerging and substantial German demand for zero-emission hydrogen and how it could be met by green hydrogen produced in Scotland.” The German market is projected to grow substantialy over the coming years, by 2030 estimated to form the majority share of a European hydrogen import market considered to be worth around £17 billion.

The Scottish Government’s hydrogen assessment in 2020 concluded that if Scotland exported green energy to Europe, it could yield £25bn in gross value added. This would be in addition to an increase of more than 300,000 jobs by 2045, “building on Scotland’s renewable energy capacity and enabling workers to transition.” This project and others are to “drive Scotland’s strengths to become a leading hydrogen nation domestically and internationally.”

Like our near neighbour Norway, Scotland is perfectly capable of following this strategy on its own, without the help of the UK’s broad shoulders which now look increasingly hunched and bowed as they battle the blizzards of isolation. Sam Taylor’s laughably ridiculous (audience laughter can even be heard on the video) assertion that Scotland can’t be independent because of a wealth of renewables is nothing more than a poor joke, a unionist arrogance to demean Scotland. Independent countries with vast resources don’t give these resources away for nothing. They develop them, export them, creating jobs, making profits that help those countries become great places to live and work.

An independent Scotland’s resources will be well looked after in a thriving green hydrogen economy that benefits all, not just a few in London who parsimoniously squirrel their profits into overseas tax havens whilst lauding austerity for everyone else in the UK.