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Green Freeport status in the Scottish Highlands could speed up a just transition to net zero

Green Freeport status in the Scottish Highlands could speed up a just transition to net zero

Opportunity Cromarty Firth

3 min read Partner content

If the Port of Cromarty Firth is given Green Freeport status, it would help attract more than £2.5billion worth of private investment, delivering a range of local and national benefits.

More than £2.5bn of new private sector investment in the UK’s vital green energy sector is at stake as the locations for two Scottish Green Freeports are chosen, the consortium bidding to win the status for the Scottish Highlands says.

The benefits would be shared across Scotland and the UK, creating 25,000 jobs, as well as accelerating the decarbonisation of the power industry and the just transition to net-zero, according to Opportunity Cromarty Firth (OCF).

A deep, sheltered North Sea inlet on the east coast of the Highlands, the firth is the focal point for the rapid development of the UK’s offshore wind industry.

It is widely regarded within the renewables sector as the only location in the country suitable for manufacturing equipment at the speed and scale needed to deliver cheaper electricity and energy security. The bid is backed by 13 of the 17 winners of ScotWind seabed leases for new offshore windfarms.

The drive to set up fixed and floating offshore windfarms is also spurring development of a new green hydrogen industry, with the Highland area at the heart of large-scale developments and export opportunities in that emerging sector.

OCF said a proposed floating “super wind hub” assembly and production facility – a development that would be enabled by winning Green Freeport status – sets the area apart from the rest of the country. 

The offshore wind boom, coupled with Green Freeport status, is forecast to create around 25,000 direct and indirect jobs, with the majority (around 15,000) in the Highlands, during a decade of construction alone. That phase is expected to contribute around £6bn to the economy, with a further £60m-a-year being generated during the operational lifetimes of the windfarms.

Bob Buskie, chief executive of the Port of Cromarty Firth, speaking on behalf of OCF, said: “We believe the impact of Green Freeport status would be transformational for the viability of projects the renewables industry needs to deliver and would be pivotal in attracting £2.5bn of new private sector investment.

The Cromarty Firth is going to be at the very heart of the UK’s energy production map for many decades to come

“Central to that would be the establishment of the super wind hub facility, which would stimulate component manufacture in Scottish and UK ports, rather than this activity happening abroad.

“The Cromarty Firth is going to be at the very heart of the UK’s energy production map for many decades to come, in the way former coal mining areas were in the past and the north-east of Scotland has been with its key geographical role in the North Sea oil and gas industry.”

Roy MacGregor, chairman of Port of Nigg owner, the Global Energy Group, added: “The renewables industry is going to make a bigger, longer-term positive impact on the Highland economy than any other sector has, including our half century involvement with oil and gas.

“Green Freeport status, which will attract new investment and help nurture innovation, offers the key to ensuring this massive opportunity can be taken to its optimum level, for the benefit of the Highlands, Scotland and the UK.”

The OCF consortium, launched in 2020, includes the ports of Cromarty Firth, Nigg and Inverness and also Inverness Airport. It is backed by Inverness Chamber of Commerce and more than thirty businesses, as well as public sector organisations, and academic bodies, including The Highland Council and the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).

For more information,please visit pocf.co.uk.

This article was published in The Path to Net Zero, a special report to mark Net Zero Week 2022, with contributions from Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, Alex Burghart MP and Kerry McCarthy MP. Read more here.

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