Playing Politics with the Scottish Renewables Industry

Playing Politics with the Scottish Renewables Industry

A political argument between the Scottish and UK Parliaments has broke out this week over Scotland’s renewables industry.

In Prime Ministers Questions yesterday David Cameron suggested that investors were being put off investing in Scottish renewables due to uncertainty about the constitutional future of the United Kingdom. However these claims do not appear to be reflected in figures released earlier on in the week.

On the 1st of November Scottish Renewables published figures that showed that £750 million had been invested into the Scottish renewables industry over the last 12 months.Scotland’s installed renewable capacity now stands at 4,620MW, increased from 3,920MW this time last year. Of this 700MW increase in capacity, the vast majority (465MW) has been from the installation of onshore wind. This can be seen to reflect the maturity of the technology as well as the attractive investment it offers.

Neil Stuart, the chief executive of Scottish Renewables issued the following statement along with the figures:

“Renewables is a massive economic, employment and environmental opportunity for Scotland. Limited public sector investment will be necessary to harness this through resourcing planning authorities, infrastructure and skills, and we believe there is a strong case for existing and new incentives to support investment in the sector.

The claim that investors were becoming discouraged away from the Scottish renewables industry came from a single analyst from the financial services organistation Citigroup. Scotland’s First Minister countered, commenting that this individual had ‘gotten the wrong end of the stick’.:

“I think to be fair to the Citigroup analyst, and we’re talking about a market analyst, he’s caught the wrong end of the stick.

“He seems to think the investment in offshore renewables in Scotland is to service the Scottish market, it’s not, it’s to service the market down south.

“The people who are analysing and actually spending the money, these major industrial combines know two things:Firstly, in order to get anywhere near the renewable energy obligations that London is going to have, England is going to have to have Scottish renewables from the sea. Perhaps the reason why all these international companies are committing funds to Scotland is because in 10 years time, without Scottish offshore wind power, then there would be a severe danger of the lights going off in England. I don’t think anybody is going to want or allow that to happen.

“Believe me, in the modern world the ability to produce power is a great asset, not a liability.”

There is also of course the possibility of exporting energy to mainland Europe in the future via the proposed European Supergrid.

Scottish Renewables also released statements about the news:

“Recent inward investment in Scottish renewables would seem to contradict the reports conclusions, which is in any event the opinion of a single analyst and not of Citigroup as a whole. Scotland has in fact had a string of successes in pinning down investment commitments from renewables companies over the past year, including Gamesa, Mitsubishi, Doosan, Techip and Gaia Wind.”

Their chief executive Neil Stuart argued that the debate over independence was itself irrelevant to Scotland’s renewables industry:

“The debate over Scotland’s constitutional arrangements is absolutely a question for the Scottish people to decide.

“If we put the politics to one side, the facts are the Scottish renewables industry has invested more than £750 million over the last twelve months, with industry plans for the future totalling £46 billion of capital investment.

“Global and UK investors have been attracted to Scotland because of our abundant wind, wave, and tidal resources, our considerable expertise in research and development, world leading innovation and a clear commitment from both Westminster and Holyrood to support the growth of the industry…

What is also clear is that Scotland’s fantastic renewables resource is key to the UK meeting its 2020 climate change and renewable energy targets, and could also make a disproportionate contribution to Europe’s 2020 objectives.

“Scottish Renewables remains committed to working with all the main political parties and government at every level to grow the renewable energy industry in Scotland.”

In an open letter to the Press and Journal, Ray MacGregor the chairman of the Global Energy Group who recently purchased the Nigg fabrication plant with the intention of converting it into a renewables hub and creating 2,000 on-site jobs remarked:

“Investment is happening in full knowledge of the Scottish Government’s planned referendum – and renewables are being deployed in part thanks to the First Minister, who has demonstrated the vision and ambition that investors want to see.”

It is unfortunate that some very encouraging news has been lost amongst the debate. It was revealed that if renewable projects that were currently under construction and had  received consent were included in Scotland’s renewable energy capacity then 58% of the country’s gross electricity consumption is being provided by renewables. Such a figure makes the 100% renewable target for 2020 seem eminently achievable.

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