Whenever I come to the north-east of Scotland, I am struck by how much we owe to the ingenuity, industry and courage of those who extract oil and gas from the North Sea.
For the last 50 years or so, they have kept the lights on. Often working in extremely challenging conditions, they have powered industry, created jobs, heated our homes and brought prosperity to the United Kingdom.
Furthermore, Scotland’s offshore industry has developed an extraordinary expertise in the creation and transmission of power. These techniques, developed during the fossil fuel era, are being applied to the creation of green energy.
As the UK embraces the renewables revolution, this expertise is putting the north-east at the heart of our drive for net zero.
Today I will visit an institution which is leading the transition while working hard to ensure that energy jobs are retained and created in the north-east.
Aberdeen’s Net Zero Technology Centre (NZTC) is at the forefront of decarbonising the oil and gas industry while building a resilient and affordable supply of clean energy.
It is a remarkable place bringing together researchers and business benefitting from a £90 million UK Government investment through the Aberdeen City Region Deal. That figure has been matched by the Scottish Government making the centre a shining example of what can be achieved when Scotland’s two governments work together.
NZTC has identified a path to an integrated net zero North Sea by 2050 – an ambition with the potential to generate £125 billion per year plus 232,000 jobs in the UK’s offshore energy sector.
An integrated net zero North Sea means reducing emissions from oil and gas extraction as the industry transitions, including techniques like subsea liquid storage of hydrocarbons, electrification of offshore platforms, the use of alternative fuels like green hydrogen and using floating wind turbines.
The enormous potential of this was driven home to me on my recent visit to Norway where the Hywind Tampen floating offshore wind farm is to be switched on later this year. This will enable extraction of oil to the highest environmental standards with the wind farm providing electricity to the Snorre and Gullfaks offshore field operations in the Norwegian North Sea.
Using green electricity to power drilling rigs will reduce carbon emissions at a time when these techniques have been thrown into sharp focus by the appalling destruction being wrought by Vladimir Putin.
We will strangle the Russian economy by pursuing a punitive sanctions regime including banning Russian oil imports.
Ending the West’s reliance on Russian hydrocarbons will harm Putin, but it will also create challenges. The best way to overcome them is by ensuring a quick and cheap transition to renewables.
With the oil and gas industries leading the way, this creates opportunities for the north-east.
It also underlines the importance of our existing North Sea oil and gas sector, which gives us a security of supply which will remain part of our energy mix during the transition. For example, North Sea hydrocarbons are required to produce medical equipment and to manufacture hydrogen, perhaps the cleanest fuel of all.
Unlike some of our political opponents, the UK Government has no intention of walking away from this vital industry. Rather, we will ensure it flourishes, keeping the lights on and accelerating the transition to Net Zero.
We will not abandon the people of the north-east. Those who have powered us through the last half century will continue to do so while developing and delivering the renewable energy of the future.
Alister Jack is Secretary of State for Scotland and the Conservative MP for Dumfries and Galloway.