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Despite adversity, Scotland remains the lead in net-zero, and continues to pave the way for the UK

3 min read

Scotland has an ambitious target to reach net-zero emissions of all greenhouse gases by 2045. Alan Brown MP, Shadow SNP Spokesperson for Energy Security and Net Zero, sets out what Scotland needs to fulfil its potential.

Scotland has already played a key role in the path to net-zero and will continue to do so. Obviously, I hope that by 2045 Scotland will have become an independent country, but in that timeframe, it can still contribute to the island of Great Britain meeting its net-zero targets and take the lead on many aspects of a green future.

For Scotland, the pathway to net-zero means fully working with the UK government; but with energy being a reserved matter, we are also dependent on Westminster making the right decisions in a timely manner. It will be no surprise that I believe there have been failings in that regard.

Scotland embraced the onshore wind revolution. However, onshore wind expansion was seriously curtailed when David Cameron blocked onshore wind [and solar] from competing in the Contracts for Difference auction process in 2015. Seven years of deployment were lost. At least Scotland can deploy onshore wind again, but planning restrictions make this well-nigh impossible in England. That decision is estimated to have added £150 a year to our bills.

Much is made of the intermittency of renewables. This is why we need greater investment in storage. One proven technology is pumped hydro storage. The pumps draw surplus water to fill the reservoirs and, when there is a need for  additional electricity generation, release the stored water to power turbines. This system complements intermittent renewables perfectly. There are several pumped hydro schemes in Scotland in development or shovel-ready.

However, the system relies on a ‘cap and floor’ type pricing mechanism – the same as operates for interconnectors – so investors have price certainty for generations. In the case of 1.5GW Corrie Glas in the Highlands by SSE and the proposed Cruachan Dam extension by Drax adding an additional 0.6GW of capacity, the funding is there for the capital spend, but it is the UK government pricing mechanism holding matters up. It is really frustrating that these projects are being needlessly delayed.

Scotland has the largest tidal stream site in the world – Maygen in
the Pentlands Firth. The largest floating offshore wind site as well

The Committee on Climate Change believe that carbon capture and storage (CCS) will play an important role in the transition. The Scottish government believes this too, but the vital Acorn CCS project has been delayed as it is only classed as a ‘reserve’ by the UK government and has had funding previously pulled. For Scotland to hit its 2030 targets, Acorn needs to be operational to eliminate the emissions from Peterhead power station and Grangemouth, the locations of Scotland’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases.

The Scottish government rightly has a no-new nuclear policy – the UK government’s obsession with nuclear is a further delay to net-zero. Hinkley Point C power station is now estimated at £33bn from a starting position of £18bn. If Sizewell C gets the go ahead it will cost in the range of £35–£40bn. This is money that should be spent on energy efficiency, storage and green hydrogen development.

Scotland has the largest tidal stream site in the world –  Maygen in the Pentland Firth. The largest floating offshore wind site as well. These are world leading technologies but need greater support to scale up and to ensure the UK supply chain scales up too.

There are many more opportunities and I want to see Scotland fulfil its potential with a just transition on the way to net-zero.

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