Scotland: Government shouldn’t fight referendum says expert

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Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been warned that her plan to accelerate the phase-out of oil and gas could come at a huge cost to millions of Britons, according to an industry trade body. Offshore Energies UK (OEUK) has warned that Scotland’s draft energy strategy could backfire as Britain will need gas for “decades to come”, it claims. This is despite an urgent climate crisis and the UK’s target of hitting net zero emissions by 2050.

It also comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine laid bare the UK’s exposure to volatile global fossil fuel markets, which spiralled out of control and had a huge knock-on impact on ballplayers across the country. To slash dependence on foreign energy imports, policymakers and energy experts have signalled the importance of boosting homegrown, clean energy sources to drive down bills as well as fight the climate crisis.

While the Scottish Government appears to be addressing this in its draft energy strategy, which includes a target of accelerating the “decarbonisation of domestic industry, transport and heat”, OEUK has warned that this shift could come too soon.

Jenny Stanning, OEUK’s external relations director, claimed: “Scotland gets 79 percent of its total energy from oil and gas according to its latest official figures. Across the UK about 24 million homes (85 percent of the total) rely on gas boilers for heat and we get 42 percent of our electricity from gas. We also have 32 million vehicles running on petrol and diesel.

“These plain facts means we will need gas and oil for decades to come. Additionally, in Scotland alone, the offshore industry supports 90,000 jobs. Across the UK it’s around 200,000.

“So we need to ensure that the final strategy acknowledges the continuing role of oil and gas in Scotland’s energy security and economy – as well as our sector’s role in a rapid transition to a low-carbon future.”

However, the strategy does also contain a pledge to add more than 20 gigawatts (GW) of additional renewable electricity on- and offshore by 2030. It is hoped that this could help to slash reliance on oil and gas, and power homes with clean alternatives.

The draft strategy reads: “To ensure we deliver climate-friendly, affordable and secure energy supplies here in Scotland, we must look to collaborate with others, particularly our neighbours around the North Sea, in creating mutual energy security and shared strategic advantage.

“The North Sea has the potential to be ‘the battery for Europe’ – we will look to work with others on how to realise this potential, and how best to create shared and mutually reinforcing systems and infrastructure.”

And OECD is still happy with certain elements of the strategy, such as the commitment to develop a Scottish hydrogen economy.

Ms Stanning said: “We strongly support the draft strategy’s commitment to develop a Scottish hydrogen economy, including the exciting ACORN project in the north-east.

“ACORN would be the core of both Scotland’s hydrogen production industry and the development of its CO2 capture and storage technologies.”

Ms Sturgeon said this week: “The current energy crisis has demonstrated how vulnerable our energy system is to international price shocks, while laying bare the need for structural reform to ensure affordability for consumers.

“This strategy will shape the next 25 years of energy production in Scotland.It provides an independent assessment of the future of the North Sea and shows that as we reduce Scotland’s dependence on oil and gas – both as generators and consumers – there is a huge environmental and economic opportunity to be seized.”

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And while OEUK, which has vested interests in the fossil fuel industry and lobbies for oil and gas companies, may not be a fan of the plan to ditch gas as soon as possible, renewable companies appear far more in favour.

Responding, SSE Chief Executive, Alistair Phillips-Davies said: “We welcome the publication of the Scottish Government’s draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan.

The draft strategy supports ambitious plans for developing onshore and offshore wind, pumped hydro storage, carbon capture and hydrogen.

“But to get there requires increased pace and we look forward to working with the Scottish Government and its agencies to turn the ambitions contained within the Strategy and Plan into tangible actions that support the clean energy transition, build local supply chains, create good green jobs and work in partnership with communities.

“As Scotland’s largest electricity infrastructure company, and the first in the world to publish a ‘Just Transition Strategy’, we stand ready to play our part with a potential £15bn investment programme for Scotland by the end of this decade that will accelerate progress towards net zero and support thousands of good jobs across the country.”

Express.co.uk is reaching out to the Scottish Government for comment.

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