Orkney and Scotland lead the world in renewables. We are ahead of target to deliver 31% electricity generated from renewables by 2011 and have increased the target for renewable electricity from 50% to 80% by 2020, with an ambition, of course, to go even further . The SNP have shown their commitment by establishing the £70 million Renewables Infrastructure Fund, with projects worth an estimated £378 million already supported, and at the heart of this renewables industry lies Orkney.
Orkney could be the site of a massive industry in renewables. This new industry can benefit more than marine and engineering firms – Orkney’s farmers can benefit from this, too. This is an emerging industry in many ways and we need to make sure that we think strategically about how to get the very best deal for Orkney out of any renewables expansion. We have to be absolutely sure for example that we are clear and strategic about what we want to accept in the Orkney landscape and waters.
We also need to remove the high costs of locational transmission charging – and thus end the discrimination against Orkney’s green energy generation which will offer huge exports of clean, green power to the UK and the rest of Europe. Renewables will not only generate tens of thousands of jobs and clean energy for our nation. It will generate billions of revenues in the decades ahead that will by-pass Scotland unless the current arrangements change.
That’s why the SNP Government is calling on the UK to devolve the Crown Estate to Scotland – it’s an outrage that our communities face being frozen out of the green energy revolution on their doorstep. Scotland has missed out on our oil wealth and we must not let the same happen again with our renewables future.
The developing renewables industry has already had a positive effect on the Orkney economy - Aquamarine spent £1 million in Orkney last year and worked with 27 Orkney companies, for example. Orkney is a good environment for getting things done. Our Orkney “can do” attitude is much appreciated by the renewables firms but we need to make Orkney suppliers better at interacting with big industrial companies who want a professional service otherwise they’ll bring all their support and infrastructure with them. We need to ensure that they source locally by marketing Orkney to them in a professional way.
I‘ll be looking to encourage HIE to upskill the existing supply chain – we really need to work on this as there could be the kind of smash and grab we’ve seen in the oil industry – and elsewhere in renewables. The offshore wind farm industry in the UK has the largest service fleet in the world but 80% of the investment in this is going outside the UK.
We need to make sure that all stakeholders are consulted on developments. The impact on fishing and the sea bed must be properly evaluated. Marine Scotland have the responsibility for this and need to be clear what is important to measure and how to measure it and to watch out for adverse effects from harvesting. The renewables developers must work with Orkney Fishermen’s Society and Orkney Sustainable Fisheries to safeguard their needs. A new industry is no use to the economy if it elbows out an established one. The SNP is committed to renewables and I’m committed to getting the best deal out of this for Orkney.