The past decade has been a tough one for Scotland’s offshore wind sector.
Beset by delays – first in granting planning consents, then by a lengthy judicial review, then by a new process which identified new areas for development – it has struggled to get off the ground.
Scotland is Europe’s windiest country. We have fully a quarter of the continent’s offshore wind resource on our doorstep. Despite this, Scotland currently has less than 1GW of generating capacity installed. South of the Border, that figure is more than 10GW – and rising fast.
While Scotland is windy, not everything blows our way. Our waters are deeper, making development more expensive, and the weather which means our seas are ideal for wind power development also make building and maintaining turbines more challenging. On top of that, the way the electricity network is paid for currently penalises Scottish offshore wind projects while rewarding those built further south.
The ScotWind Leasing process was designed in part to rebalance those inequalities and make Scotland an attractive place to build the offshore wind farms which can deliver the economic and environmental benefits now being seen in the east of England.
There, a predictable pipeline of projects have provided the international investors and developers who make up the truly global offshore wind sector with the opportunity to do something amazing.
On the Humber, a vibrant and active collaboration between government, industry and development agencies has already delivered a £310 million Siemens Gamesa blade factory in Hull which created 1,100 new, direct jobs, and a £35 million Operations & Maintenance Centre of Excellence in Grimsby. Just last week (March 10) we learned that two new ports were to be constructed in northern England, delivering 6,000 jobs.
Let me be clear: with the right market conditions, the industry I represent can deliver these benefits for Scotland. If we want jobs and investment, we must enable the offshore wind farms which support them. That linkage between project pipeline and jobs is fixed – you can’t have one without the other.
Already, Global Energy Group has made public its plans for a £100 million fabrication factory at the Port of Nigg, while almost £90 million is slated for ports in Dundee and Stornoway so they are capable of handling the offshore wind farms which developers want to build.
ScotWind Leasing can provide projects like these with the certainty they need to invest and recruit staff – key to supporting The Scottish Government’s green jobs agenda.
Scottish Renewables and its members are recommending that The Scottish Government ensure this review concludes ahead of the pre-election purdah period – and that it does not introduce significant changes to the process which would require the multinational businesses which develop these projects to restart the work they have been doing on ScotWind for many months.
Working together to keep ScotWind on track means delivering sustainable, long-term economic benefits to Scotland, as well as the carbon reductions which we so urgently need if we are to meet one of the world’s most ambitious net-zero targets.