With increasing public and media concern over climate change, it’s clear that society needs a solution that delivers a sustainable, stable and affordable energy supply.
Scotland is already rising to this huge challenge. UK Government figures show that in the first three months of 2019, Scotland produced a record amount of renewable energy, with enough power – 8877 Gigawatt hours (GWh) – to supply 88% of Scottish households. This was an increase of 17% on 2018.
Such progress is positive, but perhaps not surprising, particularly when you consider around 25% of Europe’s offshore wind resource passes over Scottish seas.
I believe we can truly do more to take a global leadership position in sustainable energy. This means learning from the skills and technical knowledge that we have built within the oil and gas sector to accelerate growth in renewable energy, both at home and internationally.
We also have North Sea oil and gas infrastructure that can be used for carbon capture and storage. Several projects are already being trialled here now, such as the CCS project at the St Fergus gas terminal near Peterhead.
Therefore, I am firmly in the camp that far from being viewed as the root cause of the problem, the oil and gas sector has to be part of the solution as the world transitions to a low carbon future.
Globally, the renewables sector simply isn’t yet ready to fill the void if we simply stopped using fossil fuels, and I am concerned that if oil and gas companies are continually demonised, there could be a detrimental impact on our economy in the short term as talented young engineers and geologists shun the ‘dirty oil’ sector, leaving businesses unable to recruit.
I am also concerned that increasing pressure on fund managers from the anti-fossil fuel lobby will reduce the flow of capital to the oil and gas sector. This could impact future supply levels, the wider supply chain and investment in technology with the potential to make the sector more energy efficient.
Let’s not forget that the oil and gas sector contributes more than £1bn in taxes to the Treasury every year, and employs around 300,000 people.
While some energy companies may not yet be fully embracing the need for change, many other traditional oil and gas companies are investing in clean tech. They can see that, with long term declining O&G reserves in the North Sea, growth in renewable energy can provide a sustainable and high-growth future business for them.
Many oil and gas companies are working to significantly reduce emissions from existing operations that are required to satisfy our current need for energy, while also investing in building their clean energy capability. Surely they should be encouraged to continue and accelerate this transition rather than being pilloried.
In conclusion, I believe that Scotland has the opportunity to establish itself at the heart of the transition to a low carbon future and that our oil and gas industry has a big part to play.
This is a massive opportunity for our country; for jobs and wealth creation, and, importantly, to truly make a difference in delivering the low carbon future that will benefit us all.
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