By Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands

SCOTLAND has been at the heart of the global oil and gas industry for decades and, more recently, has been a driving force behind the renewable energy revolution, and has demonstrated high ambition with our world-leading targets and frameworks for mitigation of climate change. Yet, despite Scotland’s comparative advantage in energy resources, there are still people in Scotland living in fuel poverty: people who are genuinely forced to choose between being cold and being hungry. That sobering fact requires decisive action.

Our ambition is to establish a public energy company which sells energy to customers at as low a price as possible and to offer people more choice, particularly those for whom fuel poverty is a real and present concern. In April, we published the strategic outline case for an energy company. Since then, we have been considering the approaches set out in that report and the consultants’ recommendations.

There are significant opportunities that could be achieved through developing a public energy company that is involved in both generation and supply, building on Scotland’s natural advantage in renewable sources.

Scotland’s Energy Strategy sets out our aspirations regarding local energy systems and solutions. I am keen that we build on the work undertaken by some local authorities such as Aberdeen City and Comharile nan Eilean Siar, to offer a fair price to local customers.

We want Scotland’s councils to work with us to develop a local authority-based approach and I have written to Cosla inviting its, and its member authorities, to work alongside the Scottish Government to achieve our shared goals. This can help support existing local ambitions to support communities and to develop energy solutions.

The report highlighted that the development of such an approach is best managed on a phased basis to maximise benefits to our society. This approach provide valuable impetus to our shared ambition to tackle fuel poverty and will be an exploratory step towards our goal of direct renewable generation and the purchase and supply of energy, delivering further economic development opportunities and opportunities for Scotland’s supply chain. Scotland’s first Energy Strategy, which I published last December, is a Scottish Government priority given the impact of our energy systems on the economy, delivery of our climate change ambitions and its importance to the lives and wellbeing of all of the people of Scotland. That is why we are placing consumers at the heart of the energy system and working to deliver a just transition towards a low carbon economy.

The strategy guides the decisions that the Scottish Government, with others, to deliver these ambitions; providing opportunities for the whole energy system and enhancing choices for the energy consumer. The realisation of our ambitions for a public energy company offers opportunities to support, and contribute, to the delivery of a number of the strategy’s priorities.

So, what next? The key objective is to make this work for consumers. I am therefore commissioning an outline business case to further investigate these proposals and to develop our understanding of the practical details, costs and benefits. I believe this is a significant opportunity to help realise the consumer-focused local energy vision set out in Scotland’s Energy Strategy, and I am keen to ensure that local authorities are able to engage and maximise local benefits.

I look forward to discussing this proposed approach, and the opportunity for partnership with Cosla. I believe it can be an important opportunity to support our shared agenda for issues such as tackling fuel poverty and the harm it causes and for optimising the role of energy in developing Scotland’s economy.