Scotland can’t afford to miss out on a new Scottish renewables industry for a second time, warns former Brit-Gov Energy minister

With a new licensing policy from the Scottish Crown Estate and co-operation – if not collaboration – with the Scot-Govt – there is a ‘glimmer of hope’ for a much-missed Scottish renewables manufacturing industry.

That is the comment by a former Scottish Labour MP and UK Energy Minister on the new offshore leasing consultation recently floated by the Scottish Crown Estate.

Brian Wilson said: “As guardian of the seabed out to a distance of 200 nautical miles, the Crown Estate has a big part to play in the future of offshore wind. 

“Its discussion paper on new offshore wind leasing for Scotland which envisages projects being built in the late 2020s and beyond.

“For once, the UK and Scottish Governments seem to be on the same page.

“UK Energy Minister Claire Perry saw “the opening up of more seabed areas for new offshore wind projects as another step towards achieving our low cost, low carbon future” in line with the government’s modern Industrial Strategy.

“Wind technology and associated developments like battery storage are moving so fast that projects which still seem implausible today may well come to fruition in 20 years time.

“That will not be for the Crown Estate to decide but at least they are  behaving as pro-active facilitators rather than absentee sea-lords, which tended to be their role in the past.

“The hopeful signal for the Scottish economy, inherent in the Crown Estate’s optimistic approach, is that there might still be potential for a renewables manufacturing industry worthy of the name. 

So far, Scotland’s failure to build an industry round renewables generation has been lamentable. But let’s hope it is not too late.

Brian Wilson, former Labour MP
Brian Wilson, former Labour MP

“Beyond historic projects that are now coming to fruition, like Beatrice and the EOWDC, there are two major offshore windfarms in a position to go ahead on the grounds that they have both planning consent and access to subsidy through Contract for Difference.  They are Neart na Gaoithe off the Fife coast and EDP Renewables’ Moray East project in the Moray Firth.

“Public and political opinion is waking up to the fact that Scotland has been conned over onshore renewables.

“Instead of a “second industrial revolution”, we have done little more than provide subsidy and land for imported turbines to be built upon. 

“Even now, the capacity to gain benefit from massive offshore developments is limited by lack of investment and forward-planning.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish First Minister, on the picket line with Bi-Fab workers in Fife over Beatrice wind farm wages dispute in 2017.
Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish First Minister, on the picket line with Bi-Fab workers in Fife over Beatrice wind farm wages dispute in 2017.

“The argument used by the industry’s big players has been that the Scottish market does not offer sufficient certainty to justify investment here – so they just carried on importing, and got away with it. 

“Is that going to change any time soon – or are minor contracts – like the small portion of Beatrice work that got BiFab into difficulties – the best we can hope for? Surely we need to aim higher.

“I hope the Scottish Government will have learned  lessons from the Neart na Gaoithe saga, which went on for all of seven years. In the meantime, Whitehall approved more than 60 offshore wind projects because, more than a decade ago, it developed a fit-for-purpose planning system which Scotland still does not possess.

“Everyone is united around the proposition that Neart na Gaoithe should bring economic benefit to Scotland. The coalition of supply chain businesses which supported Mainstream’s campaign commissioned a report from the Fraser of Allander Institute that said it could contribute 0.6% to Scotland’s GDP, worth over £800 million and thousands of jobs. 

“This can only happen because the developer fought the case all the way – but now it has to turned into substance.”

12 Jun 2018

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