The starting pistol on the countdown to COP 26 has been fired and for SSE Renewables which, as part of the SSE Group, was recently announced as a partner with the UK Government to support the summit in Glasgow in 2021, there’s no better time to discuss how we accelerate the transition to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Our parent company SSE plc’s partnership for COP26 underlines the strong commitment SSE Renewables shares in supporting the transition. We’re doing this by leading the way in developing the low-carbon assets and infrastructure required to achieve this ambitious target.
In November, as part of SSE plc, we broke further new ground as the first company to publish a “Just Transition” plan, which will help to protect workers and communities as the UK moves towards a carbon-free economy.
The plan sets out how, along with all our colleagues at SSE, we will approach the social implications of delivering net zero; from jobs and training, to working with communities and, crucially, ensuring no one is left behind.
SSE Renewables’ commitment to all of this is underpinned by a £7.5bn investment programme.
There is no question that 2020 has been a very tough year for everyone, but it has provided an opportunity to create a strong link between the economic recovery from the pandemic, sustainable growth and meeting our net zero targets.
In our view, the UK need decarbonisation at scale and pace as the route to addressing the twin challenges of the climate crisis and the need to build a green economic recovery…and we’re not hanging around.
We’re putting our money where our mouth is now. Since the start of 2020, we started construction on three crucial projects; Scotland’s largest and the world’s deepest offshore wind farm at Seagreen, 27km off the coast of Angus; our Viking onshore wind farm on Shetland (a project long in the making) which will be the largest onshore windfarm in the UK by output; and the extension to our Gordonbush onshore windfarm, 9.5km from Brora, of which construction is well underway.
Once completed these wind farms will provide electricity for around 1.5million UK homes, and support more than 1,000 direct, contractor and supply chain jobs, many of which have already started.
Each of these projects along with our operational assets are contributing to Scotland and the UK’s green recovery from the effects on the economy of the Covid-19 pandemic. But we can’t do it alone.
If we are to achieve the success we strive for, it is crucially important for governments to start delivering their net-zero objectives at pace and provide the investment frameworks needed to kick-start projects.
Currently, the timeline from inception to getting projects built is too long. For example, while the Seagreen project is now underway, it has been 10 years in development with construction in the outer Firth of Forth expected to be completed in 2022-23.
Governments also need to do more to support the UK and Scotland’s renewable energy supply chains, if more work is to be secured for manufacturing work in British yards. Strategic investment is needed to attract new or upgraded manufacturing facilities that can compete on a global stage in terms of price and quality. Of course, we welcome the support that governments are offering such as Westminster’s recent pledge to invest £160m in port infrastructure, and more of this targeted investment is needed.
While schemes like Contracts for Difference have helped drive down the cost of offshore wind projects, the design should now be adapted to factor in broader benefits rather than focusing solely price, whilst maintaining a level playing field.
Thinking positively, the measures set out in the UK Government’s recently announced ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution are very encouraging and a clear indication that the green recovery has already begun. The UK is “off and running” in the race to make critical investment in decarbonisation right across the economy.
The increased ambition and funding for key technologies like offshore wind, carbon capture and storage and hydrogen, and electric vehicle infrastructure is very encouraging. However, if we are going to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, this has to be merely the starting point.