Whilst all we’ve had to report over the past few weeks is Coalition-led cuts and restructuring to the incentives for renewable public and commercial energy in England, Scotland is set to becoming the leading location in the UK for attracting investment in renewable energy.
A projected £8billion investment – equivalent to £4.5m per day – comes after the 2011-12 reports compiled by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) revealed that £1.7 billion of new renewable energy projects were being completed north of the Scottish border.
As well as attracting further interest and driving down the cost of public and commercial energy in the highlands, 4,411 jobs were created directly as a result of the expansion into ‘green’ energy.
On a region-by-region report, only Yorkshire (£1.9bn of new renewable energy investment, 5,416 jobs) beat out Scotland in the DECC UK investment league for renewable energy.
The DECC statistics revealed that 2011-12 wasn’t all doom-and-gloom for other parts of England, with the east of England generating £845m and 1,360 jobs, whilst the north-west of England secured £642m in investment and created 1,544 jobs.
As if that wasn’t a big enough boon for Scotland, the DECC’s projections showed that all renewable energy projects currently in progress or planning to be constructed in Scotland amount to a combined £8bn in investment, creating an estimated 3,313 jobs and keeping it at the top of the DECC Investment Table for the foreseeable future.
One of the marquee projects that Scotland can look forward to in the short-term is the mid-2013 construction of the Gamesa off-shore wind hub in Edinburgh’s port of Leith – the fruit of £121m of investment.
Expected to create 800 jobs, the joint venture with Forth Ports is designed to be a forerunner to other renewable commercial energy projects in the area, and re-invigorate an area fraught with structural unemployment following the global recession.
The wind hub is atypical of a Scottish government whose drive has been to create a future for Scotland that is stable economically and environmentally, as the nation currently supplies 25% of Europe’s offshore wind, 25% of its tidal and 10% of its wave power.
John Wilson, the deputy head of Holyrood’s energy committee, stressed that the latest figures highlight the attraction of Scotland for renewables investment. He said, “The fact that the Scottish government had continued with its policies of promoting renewable energy has provided the industry with confidence.
“Scotland will not only continue as a producer of renewable energy, but will also become a major manufacturer of renewable technology.”
The news could hardly have been better timed for the current Scottish National Party administration, who last year revealed their goal of creating 100% of gross energy consumption from renewable sources by 2013, as the DECC figures revealed Scotland was exceeding their interim target of 31% by 2011.
The figures have come under attack, particularly by Tory members of the Scottish Parliament, as indicating that Scotland could be seen as a ‘one industry country’, and that the SNP’s renewable energy plan was actually set in place by UK ministers, rather than coming from within his own party.
Stewart Stevenson, Scotland’s environment minister, however focused more on the benefit of the renewable energy industry creating 28,000 jobs for Scottish people by 2020, and the in strong investor confidence this report is likely to bring.
The report comes as stark contrast to the UK’s Draft Energy Bill; released last month, critics were quick to point out the benefits and hand-outs given to Nuclear power, whilst the dispensation handed out to those who install solar panels onto their home or commercial properties has been slashed by 50%.