Scottish Government targets 20GW of additional low-cost renewable energy generation by 2030

Published today (10 January), the Strategy and Plan have been developed in recognition of the “clear imperative to accelerate the clean energy transition and reduce Scotland’s independence on oil and gas”, the Scottish Government has stated. The imperative comes in the face of the ongoing energy crisis and with Scotland’s 2045 net-zero target in mind.

Last month, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) warned that Scotland’s ability to meet its emissions targets “hangs in the balance”, with more “coherent explanations” needed on how its sector-specific policies, including energy, are aligned with its ambitions and legal obligations.

Also last month, the chair of the Just Transition Commission, Jim Skea, wrote to the Scottish Government expressing “deep concern” about a lack of adequate policy interventions to deliver a faster energy transition that is socially just.

On emissions, the new Energy Strategy is headlined with a commitment to the development of an additional 12GW of low-cost renewable energy generation capacity by 2030. At least 12GW of this will be onshore wind, and a new sector deal for onshore wind is in the pipeline for Scotland this year. The remaining 8GW will be accounted for by a mix of offshore wind, solar and wave and tidal energy.

At least 2GW of this renewable energy generation capacity should be community-owned, Holyrood is proposing.  A consultation on new good practice principles for community benefit from offshore renewables will also be launched this year.

Scottish Net-Zero and Energy Secretary Michel Matheson said: “At a time of unprecedented uncertainty in our energy sector, accelerating the transition towards becoming a renewables powerhouse makes sense for a number of reasons – particularly to helping to mitigate against future global market volatility and the high energy prices which are making life so difficult for so many people across Scotland.”

Hydrogen focus

The Strategy additionally sets out a vision for Scotland to host 5GW of renewable and otherwise ‘low-carbon’ hydrogen production by 2030. Hydrogen is described as an industry into which oil and gas sector workers are set to increasingly move, with the Strategy following the UK Government’s approach in permitting ‘blue’ hydrogen.

Blue hydrogen is produced from natural gas co-located with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies that capture process emissions. It is, understandably, popular with the fossil fuel sector, but its environmental credentials have repeatedly been questioned given that CCS is in its relative commercial infancy. Questions are also now being raised about its affordability at a time of gas price volatility.

Included in the Strategy is a commitment to an additional £100m of funding for Scotland’s hydrogen economy and a pledge for greater collaboration between the government and other “key partners” to develop skills.

While the UK Government’s Energy Security Strategy, published last April, increased targets for nuclear generation and paved the way for a review of the fracking ban, the Scottish Government has stated that its position statements on nuclear and onshore oil and gas have not changed. Both technologies have a preferred policy position of no support.

North Sea transition

As well as scaling renewable energy generation, Scotland’s plans include several measures to reduce oil and gas production and use.

Through the plans, Holyrood is calling on Westminster to introduce “more rigorous” climate and emissions testing for oil and gas fields, to ensure that they do not undermine the delivery of legally binding. The UK Government introduced new “climate checkpoints” for oil and gas fields ahead of its 33rd licencing round, which is wrapping up this month. MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee recently heard evidence that these requirements are not stretching enough to align with climate science, nor with Government commitments.

Scotland is also mulling, the plans confirm, a presumption against new oil and gas exploration. This has previously been recommended by the CCC. Licencing is reserved to the UK Government, so we can expect some clashing here, with all three British Prime Ministers to have held office over the past 12 months supporting a net-zero pathway entailing increased fossil fuel production in the near term.

Expect, also, the UK and Scotland to come to loggerheads over whether offshore energy in general – including offshore wind – should be a fully devolved issue.

Just Transition Minister Richard Lochhead said: “The oil and gas industry has made a vast contribution to Scotland’s economy and its workers are some of the most highly skilled in the world. But Scotland’s oil and gas basin is now a mature resource.

“A just transition to a net zero energy system will secure alternative employment and economic opportunities for those already working in the industry and will provide new green jobs in Scotland for future generations.

WEmbracing this change will ensure we avoid repeating the damage done by the deindustrialisation of central belt communities in the 1980s. There is a bright future for a revitalised North Sea energy sector focussed on renewables.”

Skills support

The documents published by the Scottish Government outline a £500m Just Transition Fund, £100m Green Jobs Fund and £75m Energy Transition Fund. Part of the funding from each of these Funds will be used to help upskill and reskill oil and gas workers for jobs in technologies which are emerging rather than declining.

The documents emphasise the role of energy distribution, use and efficiency as contributors to a just transition, as well as generation. It has been confirmed that Scotland will consult on a Heat in Buildings Bill later in the year, outlining proposals for improving energy efficiency in buildings and rolling out low-carbon heat technologies. Efficiency in transport is also mentioned, with Holyrood emphasising existing commitments to reduce car kilometres by 20% by 2035 by expanding bus, rail and active transport networks.

As for energy efficiency in heavy industries, the documents confirm that Scotland is proposing to continue match-funding support for energy efficiency improvements via the Scottish Industrial Energy Transformation Fund. The Fund will run through to at least 2026, with £34m set aside for allocation in this period. The new Low Carbon Manufacturing Challenge Fund has also been extended to the end of 2026 and allocated a £26m budget.

Scotland will consult on the Strategy and Plan until Tuesday 4 April. You can read and respond to the consultation here.

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