Renewable power in its various forms looks set to add considerable impetus to Scotland’s attempt to give a green restart the economy in the wake of the economic damage caused by the lockdown.

The debate over a green restart to the Scottish economy is taking place as we head towards 2020’s Earth Overshoot Day, on 22 August. Having an array of successful and ongoing renewables projects will also play well for Scotland as it looks to host COP-26, the United Nations 26th Climate Change Conference, from November 1 to 12 next year, at the Glasgow SECC.

Of course, not all green projects will be renewable energy projects. The UK Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, for example, recently announced a £3 billion ‘green investment’ package as part of the UK government’s COV-19 recovery plan, but this was all about improving the insulation of public buildings and cutting emissions from Britain’s poorly insulated homes.

This announcement was immediately slammed as ‘too little’ and ‘too unambitious’. Greenpeace pointed out that the German government has committed £36 billion into climate-change preventative measures, while France has committed £13.5 billion.

Scotland has an even more ambitious target than Westminster and aims to achieve a net-zero economy by 2045. In this it has been greatly aided by the UK Government’s decision, in early March to do a U-turn on its four year old ban on onshore wind farm subsidies. That ban, put in place by the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, caused a sharp decline in the number of new onshore wind farms.

HeraldScotland:

According to Scottish Renewables, today, onshore wind already has some 4GW of capacity in new developments that have achieved planning consent. Another 4GW of projects are currently in the planning process. Offshore wind too, had 4GW of projects with planning consent.

Morag Watson, Director of Policy at Scottish Renewables, said: “Scotland’s renewable energy industry provides enormous opportunity to deliver a green economic recovery and address the challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic.

 “Onshore wind – the cheapest form of new power generation – can play a huge role in this. The technology currently provides more than 70% of Scotland’s renewable energy capacity (8,357MW out of 11,891MW), displacing millions of tonnes of carbon each year. The sector employs 5,400 people across the country and brings skilled jobs and investment to some of our most remote communities.

 “As the windiest country in Europe, there is massive opportunity to increase deployment of onshore wind and continue to harness the socio-economic benefits of doing so, whilst working towards a net-zero energy future,” she comments.

Solar and marine power projects are also at an exciting stage, with 382MW of solar projects at various stages of development and 350MW of wave and tidal projects either already consented or in planning.

Scottish Power chief executive Keith Anderson says that the energy giant now has plans for a major expansion of its onshore wind projects, with up to 3GW of new installations planned. He points out that the energy company’s onshore wind farm projects can serve as a catalyst for launching a ‘green recovery’.

Energy firm Vattenfall is close to adding the £320 million 50-turbine South Kyle wind farm in Southern Scotland to its renewable energy portfolio. The project is expected to complete by 2023 and will be able to power around 170,000 homes, saving nearly 300,000 tonnes of carbon emissions annually.

The firm has two more wind farms planned for the area, including the Quantans Hill and Whiteneuk farms. Frank Elsworth, Vattenfall’s UK Development Director for Onshore Wind, commented:  “South West Scotland has the potential to become a green energy hub. South Kyle, Quantans Hill and Whiteneuk can play a major part in helping to power Scotland towards net zero and provide green shoots of recovery from the economic damage of Covid-19.

A recent report from Aberdeen University has added to the ‘green power’ theme by highlighting the potential for oil and gas companies to use marine renewable technologies like wave power to lower their carbon footprint.

At the same time, Crown Estates Scotland has launched the first offshore wind leasing round in a decade. The ScotWind round is expected to unlock some $8 billion of investment and result in the development of ten commercial wind farms off the coast of Scotland.

Martin Valenti, Head of Climate Enterprise at Scottish Enterprise points out that focusing money and planning on the creation of green jobs could unlock a whole range of new employment opportunities.

“It might seem odd to specify ‘green’ jobs at a time when any job is important, but we need to think ahead. We can’t just go back to where we were. There are a host of opportunities in the new, green space,” he says.

Valenti argues that it will be a huge coup if Scotland can demonstrate by COP-26 that it has demonstrable successes in its efforts to transition to a low carbon economy, capable of delivering environmental success.

“This is where our partnership with the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency and other bodies hold so much promise. We have to start working in partnership with the environment, within planetary constraints rather than with growing ecological debt,” he says.

Valenti points out that a major expansion in Scotland’s exploration of the hydrogen economy has the potential to reduce carbon emissions dramatically. Transitioning to hydrogen for heating in homes and offices, and as an alternative transport fuel would have a huge impact in lowering Scotland’s carbon footprint, he notes.

Using renewable power to produce the hydrogen would result in a major win-win for both renewables and hydrogen projects.

Valenti points out too, that there could even be an opportunity for Scotland to regain its former glory as a shipbuilding nation, if it could successfully demonstrate the deployment of hydrogen as an alternative fuel for shipping. There is already a successful hydrogen-powered ferry pilot project running in Orkney and the Northern Isles.

The Scottish Council for Development and Industry, a unique coalition of business, government and third sector organisations, recently produced a report with practical ideas for government on how to launch a green restart. The report prioritises investment in renewable power along as well as urging investment in innovative projects that will help to move Scotland towards its zero-carbon targets.

Sara Thiam, SCDI Chief Executive, comments: “Scotland has the potential to be a leader in ‘clean growth. COP-26, in particular, offers Scotland a very exciting opportunity to showcase its environmental successes on a global stage.

“By shining a light on the big innovations we are producing, we can encourage the inward investment of patient capital into our large scale green infrastructure projects, such as offshore wind generation and new technologies yet to be developed” she comments.

James Stewart, Deputy Director, Centre for Energy Policy, Strathclyde University, sounds a cautionary note on the theme of green jobs versus any jobs. “Green options need to be able to stand up against all other recovery options. We can’t do it for green's sake. However, the more new green jobs we can create the easier it will be to meet our climate targets in future,” he says.

This article appeared in The Herald as part of our 6 part editorial series in support of Earth Overshoot day. Our next 3 topics are looking at who we produce and dispose of food, natural resources and population.

To particiapte please contact Stephen McTaggart on 07788 367 461 

EMAIL: stephen.mctaggart@heraldandtimes.co.uk