With more offshore wind installations than any other country in the world and a number of pioneering projects, offshore wind represents a huge opportunity for Scotland and the north-east region.
But we can’t just look at the individual components of our future energy mix in isolation.
We must ensure we design and deliver an integrated net zero offshore energy industry.
A future built on offshore wind, hydrogen production and storage, carbon capture usage and storage and oil and gas – all four are essential ingredients in our 2050 energy mix.
Offshore wind – both fixed and increasingly floating – will be a critical part of this country’s energy mix over the coming decades and the UK is well positioned having more offshore wind installations than any other country in the world.
Hywind, off Peterhead, is the world’s first and largest floating wind farm and the Kincardine floating wind project, just south of Stonehaven, will take Hywind’s crown next year when it becomes the world’s largest floating wind farm at 50 megawatts.
These are great achievements and with 80% of the ocean’s resource potential in deep water, this exciting new technology could easily generate up to 17,000 jobs and £33.6 billion of value in the UK by 2050.
With our first mover advantage and oil and gas supply chain strength, we can become the world leader in floating offshore wind.
The future must be based on collaboration and partnership – both within the offshore wind sector and also within the different elements of the energy sector working together to pioneer and commercialise net zero solutions.
Sadly, there’s been limited collaboration to date and the engineering design houses still have separate divisions for renewables and oil and gas. Surely these must urgently come together for an integrated future.
We must also significantly reduce the level of delay and bureaucracy in progressing new offshore wind farms because the energy transition to net zero just isn’t moving fast enough. Steps must be taken to reduce carbon emissions now.
Government has a key role to provide a progressive and efficient regulatory and planning framework that eliminates bureaucracy, drives pace, incentivises innovation and encourages investment.
Perhaps an Oil & Gas Authority-style regulator spanning renewables and carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) with a remit to promote an integrated energy approach, facilitate good practice and encourage collaboration would work well.
We must develop new CCUS projects. Carbon capture utilisation and storage will play a very significant role in tackling climate change, but this will require huge investment a fair bit of which will need to come from government.
Here again, oil and gas has huge expertise in capturing carbon, transport by pipeline and storing in offshore reservoirs.
We need to focus on electrification of the North Sea, not just delivering clean electricity to the grid but using it to power oil and gas facilities replacing the current carbon intensive approach on many assets.
We must also use it to produce “green hydrogen” offshore through solutions like the floating wind-to-hydrogen project announced recently by ERM.
There’s real consensus that the transition to net zero just isn’t moving fast enough.
The Scottish and UK Governments have declared a climate emergency but are they applying this “emergency culture” to their approval process for offshore wind? I see little evidence of this.