NEWS that international heavyweights expect to develop major renewables support plants in Scotland may have rekindled fading hopes of a green jobs boom but there are big questions about what benefits will be generated from the investment concerned and who will be the biggest winners.

US private equity firm Quantum Energy Partners and Japanese engineering giant Sumitomo Electric have provided a badly-needed boost to the SNP Government by throwing their considerable weight behind projects that supporters reckon show how a just transition to a green energy economy can be achieved.

Quantum has committed £300 million to a project that will involve creating a complex housing major wind turbine production and oil rig decommissioning facilities at Ardersier port on the Moray Firth.

The plant will be developed on the site of the former McDermott oil rig manufacturing yard, which was a mainstay of the Highlands economy for years.

Quantum has held out the prospect the revamped facility could support more than 3,000 energy transition jobs at “full utilisation”.

Sumitomo said it will develop a plant in the Highlands where it will produce subsea cables that could play a key part in supporting the development of windfarms around the UK, which it said was expected to be one of the largest markets in Europe.

READ MORE: Sluggish green jobs drive in Scotland faces post-Brexit headwinds

The timing of the announcements was helpful for new First Minister Humza Yousaf as he clings to power amid the financial crisis engulfing the SNP.

The consultation on the energy strategy the Scottish Government published in January following long delays is due to end today.

The Government faced flak after saying in the strategy that Scotland should accelerate efforts to reduce its reliance on oil and gas on environmental and economic grounds. It recommended a presumption against exploration while signalling opposition to new developments.

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The strategy rehearsed claims Scotland was set to become a powerhouse in the booming global renewables business.

It claimed: “If we seize the opportunity presented by the transition, the number of low carbon jobs in the energy production sector is estimated to rise from 19,000 in 2019 to 77,000 by 2050.”

READ MORE: $500m boost to North Sea field revenues highlights value of oil and gas resources

Ministers noted the landmark ScotWind offshore leasing round last year won a strong response, with global energy giants and investors bidding to develop a new generation of floating windfarms off Scotland.

But the predictions in the strategy sat uncomfortably alongside evidence that past estimates had been wildly over-optimistic.

Last month trades union leaders demanded the Scottish Government act after estimates showed there were only 3,100 full time jobs in offshore wind in 2021.

A Scottish Government report in 2010 said offshore wind could support 28,000 jobs directly by 2020.

STUC general secretary Roz Foyer said the latest estimates showed the government needed to “revisit and rapidly deliver” on its promise to create a national energy company.

One reason the job creation record has been disappointing is that firms that have developed windfarms off Scotland have appointed companies based outside the country to manufacture the turbines concerned.

SSE used the Vestas yard on the Isle of Wight to produce turbines for the giant Seagreen development off Angus.

READ MORE: Energy giant defends treatment of Scottish supply chain amid windfarm row

Against that background Quantum’s investment in Ardersier could signal that happier times are finally in prospect in the labour-intensive turbine production business.

Quantum partner Michael McDougall said: "The site's scale and geographical location means it is ideally positioned to become a leading European hub for offshore renewable energy."

The decision to invest in Ardersier provides a big vote of confidence in the two entrepreneurs who took the risk of investing in the remains of the McDermott yard. Steve Regan and Tony O’Sullivan spent years working up the plan Quantum decided to buy into.

But the announcement of the investment was short on details in terms of the timescales involved.

It could be years before work starts in earnest on any of the windfarms planned by successful ScotWind bidders. These must clear regulatory hurdles, secure financing and address engineering challenges before going ahead.

Industry body Scottish Renewables welcomed the Ardersier announcement but cautioned: “Offshore wind projects are large and complex and it is essential that a number of issues, not least those of timely consenting and grid connections, are addressed if Scotland is to make the most of this gigantic opportunity.”

READ MORE: Dundee set to boost renewables credentials with work on pioneering marine energy project

Scottish yards will face competition from Teesside which is home to major oil rig decommissioning facilities and where energy giants such as EDF are developing low carbon operations.

Past hopes about the potential of Scottish turbine support operations have proved to be sadly unjustified.

In 2008 former first minister Alex Salmond hailed Skykon’s decision to invest in a turbine production plant in Campbeltown that was expected to create around 450 jobs. The plant closed in 2020 after a turbulent decade in which it failed to secure the orders expected.

The Burntisland Fabrications operation in Fife went into administration in 2021 after suffering disappointment in the windfarm market. The Scottish Government claimed EU state aid rules prevented it providing as much support for the business as some called for.

Sumitomo said it plans to establish a factory in the Scottish Highlands to capture the growing demand for high-end cables in the UK.

The announcement, however, said nothing about how many jobs the plant was expected to create and when. It did not even say where the plant will be built.

By contrast, oil major Equinor has underlined the potential for new North Sea developments to support large numbers of new jobs in coming months.

READ MORE: Shetland oil fields in focus amid North Sea exodus fears

The Norwegian giant plans to develop the giant Rosebank find off Shetland amid fierce opposition from campaigners.

It has said that Rosebank could directly generate over 1,600 high value jobs at the height of the construction phase in Q2 2025.

After Equinor posted what Friends of the Earth Scotland described as an “outrageous” £9.5bn first quarter profit last week, the environmental group complained Rosebank was set to benefit from £3.75bn tax relief. It should qualify for the investment allowance the UK Government introduced last year alongside the oil and gas windfall tax.

However, deep-pocketed overseas investors in Scottish renewables projects could generate bumper returns with support from public agencies and consumers.

Houston-based Quantum has invested billions of dollars building a portfolio that includes stakes in oil and gas firms, such as US shale heavyweight Devon Energy. It would not commit £300m to Ardersier if it did not expect to get much more than that back.

READ MORE: London oil trader accelerates North Sea growth drive

Quantum’s plans appear to assume that much of Ardersier’s revenue will come from windfarm operators. The money these earn comes ultimately from energy bills, which have surged amid the spike in prices fuelled by Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Oil and gas firms get generous tax relief for decommissioning work.

Welcoming the Sumitomo announcement, energy secretary Neil Gray indicated public agencies were falling over each other to support the Japanese giant.

“The Scottish Government, Scottish Development International, and Highlands and Islands Enterprise will continue to work closely with Sumitomo Electric to foster this important partnership and unlock the opportunities the global renewables revolution presents,” said Mr Gray.