- The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick):
Good morning. The first item of business is a debate on motion S4M-00169, in the name of Fergus Ewing, on faster and further to secure Scotland’s place as the green energy powerhouse of Europe.
- The Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism (Fergus Ewing):
In 1865, in Cleveland, Ohio, Maurice Clark met his business partner at an auction at which one partner would buy the business from the other. The bidding stopped at $72,500, at which point Mr Clark announced to his partner that he could afford no more and sold him his half-share in the business. A cheque was offered but they settled on a handshake. The partner’s name was John D Rockefeller and the business became the Standard Oil Company. Little did either of them know that the business would go on to become the biggest in the world and would subsequently be split to form Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Amoco, Conoco and other companies that dominate the oil industry today.
There was no way that either man could have known in 1865 that petroleum would become the biggest business in the world. Today, however, we all know that fossil fuels are finite resources. We cannot say exactly when they will run out but we know with absolute certainty that we must find replacements. We also know that Scotland has a unique natural endowment, with a quarter of Europe’s offshore wind and tidal resource and a tenth of its wave energy potential, and that as a result it has an opportunity to be among the pioneers of the 21st century energy revolution. Our opportunity is to be at the forefront of the global low-carbon economy.
In 1865 John Rockefeller could have predicted neither the success nor the size of the oil industry. However, today, we can foresee and predict with near certainty that renewables will become massive businesses employing millions of people all over the globe. The Scottish Government has therefore pledged to move further and faster to secure Scotland’s place as the green energy powerhouse of Europe. We must aim high or be left behind.
Our commitment to generating 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020 sends a clear signal that Scotland has the political will as well as the natural resources, the technical expertise and the industrial capacity. Indeed, there are already 60,000 low-carbon jobs in Scotland. We estimate that by 2020 there will be 130,000 such jobs in Scotland—an additional 70,000 in just a few short years. In the next few weeks, we will publish our Scottish renewables road map, which will set out a clear route to achieving our renewables targets for electricity, heat and transport.
Let me be clear: by 2020, Scotland will be sourcing at least 11 per cent of its heat demand from renewable sources, including biomass, heat pumps and solar thermal; will be generating 100 per cent of electricity consumption from renewables; and will double its electricity generation equivalent to 200 per cent of our consumption. In other words, by 2020, Scotland will be producing all the electricity that it needs, just over half from renewable sources and just under half from other sources. Plainly we will then be in a position to be an energy exporter.
The additional electricity will be generated by thermal plants that are progressively fitted with carbon capture and storage facilities to achieve full decarbonisation by 2030. Substantial grid upgrades and investment in electricity storage and demand management will result in a responsive and flexible grid that effectively balances renewables generation. Scotland will continue to export substantial amounts of electricity throughout the year, which will become lower and lower carbon. That will help the United Kingdom and the European Union to meet their renewables and climate change targets.
- Lewis Macdonald (North East Scotland) (Lab):
The minister has mentioned ambitious targets and significant technologies that have yet to be fully proven, but he has not mentioned district heating or combined heat and power. Will he comment on the role that that might play in the projection and road map that he is describing?
- Fergus Ewing:
Combined heat and power has many advantages in using biomass to provide electricity, and it will certainly have a role to play.
Our energy efficiency action plan, which was published last year, heralds energy efficiency as
“the simplest and most cost-effective way to reduce emissions whilst seeking to maximise the productivity of our renewable resources”
and provide a positive effect on energy bills. That will, in turn, reduce fuel poverty and allow householders and businesses to spend in other parts of the economy the money that they save.
We want affordable housing with affordable warmth. Our target to reduce total final energy consumption in Scotland over the period to 2020 stands at 12 per cent. Meeting that target and reducing our energy requirements will not only help us to meet our 2020 emissions reduction target but make our renewables targets more easily achievable. That is simply common sense. Patrick Harvie, who is, I see, about to make an intervention—perhaps I provoked that—has argued that for many years.
- Patrick Harvie (Glasgow) (Green):
How could I resist making an intervention as soon as the minister caught my eye?
It seems to me that the minister has implied several times in his speech that increasing renewable energy generation will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, but that is not true, of course. Renewable energy generation gives us energy without additional emissions. Reducing our emissions fundamentally means burning less fossil fuel. Will the minister commit the Government to opposing any attempt to begin shale gas extraction in Scotland? That would only add to the stock of available fossil fuels, which, if burned, is already more than enough to make our climate change targets meaningless.
- Fergus Ewing:
I am, of course, glad that I caught Patrick Harvie’s eye. We have set a number of clear-cut targets. I understand that there is considerable controversy about the role of energy from shale and the complexities that are involved. It is important that appropriate environmental safeguards are put in place if such an approach is to be used anywhere in the world. Mr Harvie would argue that such safeguards are not possible, but others argue that they are. We need to study those matters carefully or else we will come to premature conclusions, but I am happy to work with Mr Harvie on that and all other issues as time progresses.
Renewable energy in Scotland has come a long way. Our hydro legacy together with the growth of onshore wind since devolution mean that renewables now deliver almost a third of our annual electricity demand. In the past four years, there has been a significant increase in the rate of deployment, with ministers consenting to 42 renewables projects. That is more than double the number for the previous four years. Hydro will continue to provide electricity in Scotland long into the future. There are opportunities for new hydro schemes, and we will need more pumped storage to help to balance electricity supply and demand. I would like to set a challenge to developers to come up with more hydro schemes that are in harmony with the local environment. The hydro revolution is not just a memory from the 1940s and 1950s and the days of Tom Johnston; it can be relevant now as well.
Scottish Water is a public sector success story, but it also uses around 1 per cent of the electricity that is consumed in Scotland each year. It already generates around 5 per cent of its own energy needs, but under a new plan, it could generate enough from renewables to cover all its own needs and make a significant contribution towards our targets.
Onshore wind will continue to play a role in meeting our targets and in attracting investment in grid upgrades and helping to finance the development of emerging technologies. We will continue to address deployment issues in areas such as aviation, where work to develop solutions is beginning to pay off, and we will drive best environmental practice in community engagement so that good, responsible applications with a strong chance of being realised come through. It is of course in onshore wind and hydro that the greatest short to medium-term opportunities lie for communities to generate revenue from renewables.
Marine renewables have a huge part to play in our sustainable low-carbon and industrial future. In the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney, we have a world leader in the field. No doubt Liam McArthur will talk about that in more detail later. Through our grant funding, which has seen more than £25 million awarded since 2007, we have supported domestic pioneers such as Pelamis Wave Power, Wavegen and Aquamarine Power. We have introduced the £10 million saltire prize and enhanced levels of return for wave and tidal generation under the renewables obligation. We have also created a one-stop shop for all marine licence applications in Scottish seas to help address the challenges of developing offshore renewables. We are determined to respect all the marine interests, most notably those of our fishermen and fishing communities. The award of commercial leases to 11 projects in the Pentland Firth and Orkney waters—a world first—remains a powerful signal of both the capability of the technology developers involved and the will and intent of their utility and industrial partners.
The offshore wind industry could support almost 50,000 direct and indirect jobs in Scotland in 2020, generating more than £7,000 million for our economy. I became more personally aware of the opportunities last week, when I visited Babcock at Rosyth and learned that it has engineered down the cost of offshore weather stations from £7 million to £3 million. Those who question the commercial viability and affordability of such techniques should be aware that massive progress is being made by Scottish companies finding engineering solutions. The potential from existing leasing rounds alone amounts to almost 10GW of capacity in Scottish waters. Our plan for offshore wind in Scottish territorial waters has identified a further 25 sites for exploration in the medium term. The industry is attracting major investment to Scotland. Companies such as Doosan, Gamesa and Mitsubishi have already announced plans to locate in Scotland and develop their offshore wind interests here.
This is not in my script, but a headline in the Glasgow Herald today states “Glasgow named as first Scots ‘super city’ of green energy”. The article points out that HSBC has said that one reason to come to Glasgow is that we are taking a lead in the green energy revolution.
Our national renewables infrastructure plan and the related £70 million fund will ensure that our port and harbour facilities are ready to meet the sector’s needs and exploit the huge economic benefits that it offers.
Renewable energy can provide a tremendous source of income for local communities. Scotland leads the way in supporting local ownership, with at least 800 community-owned renewables schemes operating throughout Scotland, thanks to Government support over a number of years. Sarah Boyack has done a lot of work in the area and we support the same broad objectives in that regard.
I commend the work of the Forestry Commission Scotland in negotiating a £5,000 per megawatt rate for the new commercial wind and hydro schemes on the national forestry estate, which has given a lead to private sector developments on the appropriate benchmark.
We are determined that Scotland will play a significant role in the renewable heat sector. We are working with the UK Government to ensure that Scottish interests are reflected in the design of the renewable heat incentive.
As my time is nearly up, I will dispense with various sheets of prepared text and draw my remarks to a close. We are on the verge of perhaps the most tremendous economic and environmental opportunity that Scotland has had in our history. The Government’s aim is to ensure that we take full advantage of that revolution, working with everybody in the Parliament. I believe that that is exactly what we will do.
That the Parliament supports the Scottish Government’s pledge to move faster and further to secure Scotland’s place as the green energy powerhouse of Europe; agrees that the investment and job opportunities presented by the low-carbon economy represent Scotland’s greatest economic opportunity; welcomes the target to generate the equivalent of 100% of Scotland’s electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020; supports the Scottish Government’s aim to maximise the benefits for communities from renewable energy and to transform the level of opportunity for local ownership; supports demands for the release of Scotland’s Fossil Fuel Levy surplus for investment in renewable energy in Scotland; supports the campaign to locate the Green Investment Bank in Edinburgh; supports the Scottish Government’s plans for Scottish Water to become a renewable energy generator; calls on the UK Government to accept the case for the Scottish Ministers to have a greater say in the design of the Electricity Market Reform mechanisms and to subsequently outline greater powers over energy policy in the UK Energy Bill for the Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliament, and supports the devolution of the Crown Estate to the Scottish Parliament to ensure that Scotland’s natural assets are managed in Scotland for the benefit of all of Scotland’s people.
- Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab):
We in the Labour Party agree that renewable energy is vital to the future of Scotland, the UK and Europe. We are proud of the lead that we took on renewables developments in Scotland when the Parliament was established in 1999. The first target that I set then was seen as highly ambitious and very bold, but it was based on the use of existing technologies and followed the lead taken in other countries. It was one of the landmark changes that we delivered in the early years of our new Parliament. It laid the framework for early action and much of the development that Fergus Ewing talked about in his opening remarks.
There are huge opportunities for Scotland in the development of renewables, but saying that we support renewables is not the same as providing the infrastructure and policy support for renewables, particularly given that the technology is still being invented and tested. Our marine renewables industry in particular is coming up with exciting developments, but it needs the right support and it needs time. I very much welcome the minister’s announcement that a route map is to be produced. I hope that he will bring it to the Parliament, so that we can interrogate it and add our own ideas. I take him at his word, given that in yesterday’s debate he gave Opposition parties the opportunity to come forward with proposals, which he might take on board. I will certainly outline one or two proposals in my speech.
One of the things that I ask the minister to consider as he draws up the renewables plan is whether now is the right time to say what proportion of contributions we expect to see from different types of renewables. It is interesting that in his speech the minister concentrated on large-scale renewables. There is a real danger that we will underplay the contribution of small-scale renewables at household level. The work done by the Department of Trade and Industry shows that there could be a massive contribution from that area, and we would do well not to ignore it.
Over the years the work that Labour has done in this Parliament, such as setting planning guidelines to support the principles of renewables development and our amendment to the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 on community-scale and household-scale renewables, shows that we have been committed to renewables for the past 12 years. We believe that more must be done to secure the maximum direct benefits to communities from renewables developments, whether such developments are run by communities or whether communities get a fair share from the big renewables opportunities that are brought by private developers.
We support a variety of ownership and management tools, including co-operative actions, which we think will help communities buy into and have a stake in renewables developments, rather than seeing such developments as being done to their communities. That is why the planning process is crucial.
All that will not happen by assertion, however. The one thing that I say to the minister as he takes on his new, exciting portfolio is that the recent tender for the Forestry Commission Scotland contracts was potentially a missed opportunity for community renewables. When he comes to look at designing contracts and the tender process for Scottish Water and other Scottish Government land, I hope that he will bear that experience in mind.
If Labour had been elected, or had been in the position to exercise control over the Government, we would have wanted to promote renewables to deliver new jobs and, crucially, to deliver cheaper energy for consumers and communities, with a particular focus on people on low incomes, who are suffering under the current raft of gas and electricity price rises.
There has to be a win, win, win for Scotland. We have to ensure that it is about not just expanding the industry but looking at the benefit that is secured, and not just by communities but by householders. There is a potential bonanza throughout Scotland. We very much agree with the minister on that issue. There are a raft of potential careers in the renewables industry, in building new grid infrastructure; in designing the new smart grid that needs to be developed in Scotland; in manufacturing and building the new kit, whether it is going to be onshore or offshore; in installing household and community-scale renewables; and in designing better and newer types of renewables, particularly in our marine environment.
Last week’s warning by the International Energy Agency about the continuing growth of CO2 emissions means that we absolutely must step up the link between our renewables and our energy-efficiency targets. We need to ensure that we step up the level of investment in green, low-carbon and zero-carbon industries across the board. That is why our amendment suggests a range of actions that the Government needs to take on board, particularly to decarbonise our housing and transport sectors, which is vital.
We need to link the opportunities for renewables, energy efficiency, zero carbon and jobs. That is key if we are to come out of the recession creating new jobs.
The policy mechanisms need to be in place. We welcome the new route map that the minister mentioned, which is vital to making the Government’s ambitious targets at all achievable. Those targets rest on the development of new industries and new technologies.
We need to look for the early actions that will deliver the jobs bonanza. Where will the regional training centres that the Scottish National Party manifesto mentioned be established and how soon will that happen? What will the Scottish Government do to speed up the granting of planning consents? Will the minister act on the renewables industry’s concern that the marine licensing system and the onshore planning system do not have enough resources to deliver fast enough the action that we need? That is coming through loud and clear from the industry. What is happening to ensure that the contribution of the skills in the offshore oil and gas industry continues and to plug those skills into the new offshore renewables world?
I will describe another area in which we need to take ambitious action. The Government’s action will be tested by what it delivers. In comparison with the ambition on renewables, there is nowhere near enough ambition on energy efficiency. The Government must take that on board.
An energy efficiency action plan was produced in the previous parliamentary session, but the Association for the Conservation of Energy points out that the budget for domestic action was slashed by 30 per cent. A link exists between energy efficiency and domestic price rises. That is why we want more practical action to be taken early in the Government’s term. We want more use of council tax and business rate incentives for people to install energy efficiency measures.
The new report “The Power of Scotland Secured” by GL Garrad Hassan highlights the important role of energy efficiency. Reducing electricity demand—particularly peak demand—is by far the cheapest way to contribute to the security of supply and to emissions reductions. We need an energy and renewables strategy that links completely into energy efficiency.
That is why we would like much faster action on community-scale and householder developments. In the green new deal in our manifesto, we proposed early action at local and community levels. Until we have a mass market in Scotland, we will not have the reduced costs that result from greater competition. We will not have investment from companies in something that is not seen as a Government priority.
A huge opportunity has been missed to deliver jobs and tackle fuel poverty. The new feed-in tariff and the renewable heat incentive that the minister mentioned transform the economics for local and householder renewables, but we must seize the day. When I announced that we would deliver 10,000 local developments for housing—whether in council housing or the housing association sector—Alex Neil dismissed me in the Parliament as delivering a tiddlywinks policy. However, the Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism has not set out the Scottish Government’s policy.
What I have described is the big policy suggestion that I put on the table today. Will the minister consider that suggestion? The policy is happening in Birmingham city now and there is no reason why we cannot adopt it in Scotland. If the Scottish Government worked with local authorities and housing associations, that would produce a local jobs bonanza and benefits, particularly for people who live on low incomes and who suffer from fuel poverty.
Such a policy would make a dramatic difference to people. It would also deliver new manufacturing and installation jobs. We estimated that 10,000 developments in the initial years would deliver 10,000 training places. It would be a practical contribution to renewables that focused on energy efficiency and delivered local jobs, and, crucially, it would deliver in the early years. All the ambition on renewables and climate change looks to 2020, but we must look to the next four to five years. We cannot afford to miss the opportunity, but we must also drive down our emissions now.
The SNP did not do enough on other matters in its past four years in government. Opportunities were missed in public procurement, which I hope will be covered by the Government’s new route map for renewables. I am interested in hearing from the cabinet secretary whether the Government still has a policy of having renewables in every school. We lobbied the Government hard on that in the previous session, but little progress was made. Where is that policy? Has it been sidelined or is it still active?
In Edinburgh, the reality has been deeply disappointing. Renewables were removed from the previous schools programme and I heard this month that school students who had won a prize for new renewables were not allowed to get those renewables in their schools. I hope that the SNP Government acts on such barriers to progress. The Government needs to put its money where its mouth is and ensure that renewables and energy efficiency are built into procurement and school design from the start.
There are other areas in which we need rapid progress. What is happening with the development of the Beauly to Denny grid? The SNP has swanned through two elections promising all things to all people. Local people need to know what is happening.
We will support the Government when it negotiates and works constructively with the UK Government on the fossil fuel levy, the green investment bank and the Crown Estate. The results of the consultation on the Crown Estate urgently need to be brought to Parliament. Parliament needs to be brought on board and it needs to see what the options are. We need to see action throughout the country so that we get the renewables bonanza that the minister talked about in his opening remarks. Less time should be spent on new powers, and more time should be spent on using the powers that we have now.
I move amendment S4M-00169.1 to leave out from first “supports” to end and insert:
“believes that Scotland’s renewable energy resources present an important opportunity to develop a sustainable, low-carbon economy and considers that the social and community opportunities in terms of ownership and investment need to be maximised and calls on the Scottish Government to now deliver its renewable targets by setting out a plan that includes supporting policies and finance, planning issues, procurement, training, grid development and management, and measures to deliver community and cooperative ownership and management opportunities; believes that the promotion of green energy should go hand in hand with ambitious energy efficiency targets and calls on the Scottish Government to work with local authorities, social housing providers and Scottish companies to deliver a sustained programme of home energy efficiency and community and householder renewables installations, to work to deliver the best deal for Scottish consumers, communities and businesses, to set out its ambitions for delivering on housing efficiency in order to maximise the use of householder and community renewable heat and power schemes and to prepare a transition plan for transport to drive forward the infrastructure to enable the expansion of low-carbon and electric vehicles in use and calls on the Scottish Government to work with the UK Government to support the establishment of the Green Investment Bank in Edinburgh, to get the best deal for Scotland in relation to the release of Fuel Fossil Levy monies and the development of the UK energy market so that it meets Scotland’s needs in terms of both exports and imports, and calls on the Scottish Government to bring forward as a matter of urgency the results of its consultation on the Crown Estates Commission so that they may be considered by the Parliament.”
- Jackson Carlaw (West Scotland) (Con):
I begin by welcoming the minister to his new responsibility. I am only in temporary residence as spokesperson this morning.
To be perfectly honest, I rise to speak to the amendment in my name in forlorn hope rather than in genuine expectation that it will sweep the chamber. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, they say. However, while Parliament may look the same it is undoubtedly a very different place from the one we left before the election. Although the balance was fine then concerning the role that nuclear might play in our future energy provision, in this session it clearly is not. I accept that although I will be promoting the case for a role for nuclear, it is now very much a minority case in Parliament.
I welcome the debate. I was much happier with its title than I was with the motion. I hope that I do not disappoint the minister when I say that I agreed with much of what he said. I would expect nothing less than the commonsense approach of a former Belmont House boy that Mr Ewing was able to bring to his contribution. However, I had not quite appreciated until I saw the motion that it was his intention personally to fertilise debates with incontinent motions. This is something of a bar-room brawl of a motion. I wondered whether, when amending it after every semi-colon, I might not just have added, “And another thing”. In its scope the motion does not do justice to any particular aspect of the debate that we need to have. There are about 10 debates contained in the motion. In the time that we have, we will be unable to elaborate on them fully.
Our amendment supports the green investment bank coming to Scotland. However, it turns to the heart of the matter, which is the SNP legacy from the previous Parliament that renewables would be able to produce 100 per cent of our power requirements by 2020. The First Minister said last week:
“We know of our great comparative advantage in natural resources and the opportunities that exist in transforming to a low-carbon economy. In renewable energy, we have just one of many growth sectors, and through our renewable wealth we can and will reindustrialise our nation as we research, develop, export, engineer, fabricate, install and then service the new energy systems that will power this century.”—[Official Report, 26 May 2011; c 73.]
I agree with that, although in her contribution my colleague Mary Scanlon will question whether, in order to achieve that objective, we will by definition be greenlighting every and any wind power scheme that is proposed, and riding rough-shod over any other consideration.
Like Labour, and like Sarah Boyack, I question whether the ambition is as yet met with a detailed plan to deliver. Sarah Boyack called it a route map. In something of an oxymoron, Mr Ewing called it a road map—I am sure that Mr Harvie would object to that. However, let us assume that a route map is coming. Given the technologies that we have now, offshore wind and carbon capture are things that we can develop, expand, research and export. However, in the context of where we are today, 30 per cent of our energy is generated by nuclear. While we accept that new builds are by definition off the agenda, given the UK context, the Government nonetheless has a responsibility to meet Scotland’s future energy requirements.
Last week, the First Minister talked about
“the family in Dumfries that wants to send their daughter to university ... the commuter in Dunfermline who travels daily across the Forth ... the family in Ayrshire”
who would have to choose different medicines and
“the pensioner in Inverness”.—[Official Report, 26 May 2011; c 69.]
I assume that the family in Dumfries, the commuter in Dunfermline, the family in Ayrshire and the pensioner in Inverness also want the lights to come on when it is dark, to be warm when it is cold and to be able to go to places of employment that are properly and adequately powered.
How are those requirements to be met? Hunterston is currently producing about 27 per cent of our generation. As this parliamentary session comes to an end in 2016—in just five years’ time—Hunterston is due to be decommissioned.
The SNP motion revives and echoes some of the now familiar refrains on additional powers. My question for the minister is this. Is he confirming beyond peradventure that he has the means, through the powers that he has at his disposal in the Parliament, to meet all Scotland’s energy needs from renewable energy and non-nuclear generation by 2020—that is, with no nuclear capacity whatever? If, as the motion suggests, the minister needs additional powers—those that are not yet available or to hand—that surely has an impact on his ability to deliver the end result. If he has the means, then he must—as Sarah Boyack asked—detail in a route map exactly how and when that will be the case, so that the people of Scotland, not just the Parliament, can be assured that the powers will be there.
Many people in business and elsewhere believe, as we do, that there has to be nuclear provision. The minister flashed up The Herald earlier. He might also care to recall The Herald’s editorial of 30 March, which said:
“Scotland is right to develop a new generation of renewables but the scale of the energy gap we face means nuclear must remain in the mix. The alternatives are black-outs or expensive imports from England or abroad.”
The minister has our support as he exploits Scotland’s natural renewable opportunities, but he carries a responsibility, for all those standard bearers to whom the First Minister referred and for all of Scotland, to ensure that there is no gap in our energy supply.
Germany has said—rather pathetically—that it will rely on French nuclear provision to meet its needs. Will Scotland, equally, have to rely on English nuclear supply in the future?
Last week, Iain Gray here and Baroness Hayman, at the Obama address at Westminster, quoted Mario Cuomo, who said:
“You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.”
On renewable energy, the Government is in danger of both campaigning and governing in poetry. There should be ambition, yes, but not reckless ambition. There should be pragmatic progress—yes—and it demands an extension of our existing nuclear provision.
I move amendment S4M-00169.2, to leave out from “agrees” to end and insert:
“is concerned that the Scottish Government’s target of generating the equivalent of 100% of Scotland’s electricity demand from renewable sources within nine years is wholly unachievable; is further concerned that the Scottish Government’s refusal to replace existing nuclear facilities will lead to an excessive reliance on onshore wind farms and thereby jeopardise the security of Scotland’s energy supply; believes that a viable, low-carbon and secure energy capacity for the future requires investment in the full range of renewable sources, the life extension of existing nuclear facilities and the development of world-leading carbon capture technology; further believes that the UK Government’s Green Investment Bank should be located in Scotland, and calls on the Scottish Government to amend the national planning framework to designate the replacement of existing nuclear facilities as national developments and to introduce robust national strategic planning guidance to ensure that new wind farms are sited only in appropriate locations.”
- The Presiding Officer:
We now move to the open part of the debate. Speeches will be six minutes. As always, there is a tiny wee bit of time in hand. If members wish to take interventions, the Presiding Officers will try to compensate them for doing so.
- Rob Gibson (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP):
It is appropriate to quote this, following the previous speech:
“Some people are seriously underestimating what Scotland can achieve from renewable power and how quickly. Renewable capacity equivalent to 100% of gross demand is perfectly possible by 2020 as part of a wider energy mix.
This will mean thousands of jobs, particularly in marine energy. Achieving this target requires both determination and leadership”.
That was said by Jim McColl of Clyde Blowers, who is among the very people who will be leading the industrial effort to deliver and achieve the tasks that are required.
The scale of the task is indeed huge; as has been stated by everyone, the scale of the opportunity is also huge. As the member for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, in the north of Scotland, part of my duty is to ensure that we gain benefits in our area from developments in this field. In the first instance, they will come from proven technology. I refer, for example, to the Moray Offshore Renewables project. Before 2020, 200 turbines will be producing energy equivalent to that of a nuclear power station. If we are talking about 1,500MW by 2020, we are talking about our country having the capacity to replace that amount of energy using proven technology within that timescale. That kind of opportunity is achievable, and it can bring huge amounts of work to areas close to where I live.
In order to achieve that, we need a stable market. Germany is saying to its utilities—E.ON, RWE and so on—“You have renewables arms, which have to be stepped up.” That is the signal that I take from Germany. Such arms will back up our efforts to make changes in Scotland and those technologies are adding to our native wit and our ability to do the job that I laid out. The utilities can help to create a stable market, because we need the finance so that we can get into renewables—members mentioned the green investment bank and other members will do so. We are talking about a huge amount of money, but the important point is that if it is directed in the right fashion, there will be opportunities—for example, from the development of the deepwater offshore wind farms—to sell the technology on in the world. Indeed, the east of the United States and the east of Brazil are waiting for such work to be proven.
There are two turbines, 12 miles off the Caithness coast, which I have seen throughout the time that I have represented the Highlands and Islands region and now my constituency. They have been proven to work. There will be 200 such turbines in the first phase. That is a huge undertaking, of course, but it is no more difficult to achieve than building a nuclear power station in the same time would be, and it is far more sustainable. The route map or road map—whatever name we adopt—will include such proven technology.
We have to deal with regulators that are run from London—the Office of the Gas and Electricity Markets, in particular. Ofgem says:
“Our principal duty is to protect the interests of existing and future consumers.”
That is exactly what the Scottish Government’s policy is about. It is about ensuring that we have the electricity to be able to support people in the poorest conditions, in industry and so on. Ofgem says that its aims are about
“promoting security of supply, promoting sustainable development”,
and dealing with the problems of “vulnerable consumers”. That is exactly what the Scottish Government’s ambition is about, so we must ensure that we get Ofgem on our side so that we can achieve those things.
We also need Ofgem to change its approach to renewables obligations. Will the minister comment, if possible, on how renewables obligation certificates are used in relation to power stations that burn timber? That is not renewable energy—although the timber is replaceable. A practice that is currently being supported is having a serious effect on our country’s forests and timber supply, and we need to consider the issue carefully.
I am taking on a new role in the Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee and it is obvious that issues to do with the balance between how we generate electricity and how we conserve it will be important to us. We will also have the annual round of work on the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.
I have much sympathy with the Association for the Conservation of Energy, which says that
“Improved demand reduction will require a lower surcharge on electricity bills”
and is calling for a 12 per cent reduction in electricity demand by 2020, in line with the Government’s overall energy demand reduction target, so that we can have much more resilient homes. We must put in place smart metering, so that individuals and families can think about how they use electricity and decide to use it more efficiently. I look forward to opportunities cropping up in that regard.
The report, “The Power of Scotland Secured”, summed up the issue very well when it said that its conclusions
“depend on only moderate efficiency and conservation achievements, below the targets set by the Scottish Government. More ambitious energy demand reductions across all sectors would make system security and emissions reductions far easier and cheaper to deliver, and would reduce household fuel bills.”
The Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee will carefully consider all the aspects. As Jim McColl said,
“it is time for bravehearts not fainthearts.”
- Duncan McNeil (Greenock and Inverclyde) (Lab):
The motion, the amendments and the debate are characterised by common themes: a shared ambition to create a sustainable future; a determination to secure the maximum return on our investment and our resources; and a sense of expectancy—indeed, excitement—at what can be achieved to grow our economy and create the sustainable jobs of the future, to the benefit of all communities in Scotland.
No one can doubt Scotland’s massive renewables potential in offshore wind and tidal resources or the positive impact that that industry could have on the Scottish economy by increasing our energy supply; providing speedy access to significant investment; and creating tens of thousands of jobs—as the minister confirmed—in constructing the turbines, barges and jackets that we need and in maintaining the operational infrastructure. It is necessary to realise that potential, but competition is fierce throughout Europe and, indeed, within the UK. That is our ambition, but we must realise that ambition.
At this point, I should apologise in advance because, in the previous session of Parliament, some of my colleagues heard my girns and complaints about Inverclyde’s position in that new market. However, that is my job and, with a new minister in place, I will not miss the opportunity to make the case.
In the face of the difficult competition that I mentioned, we worked to bring about the national renewables infrastructure plan, which was commissioned by the Scottish energy advisory board. The group was chaired by the First Minister, no less. The work was heavily influenced by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and supported by Scottish Enterprise.
The report’s task was to identify sites in Scotland that offered the greatest opportunities for development for use as construction sites. A matrix and weighting were applied to a number of sites in the process of selection for investment, but it is significant that little weighting was given to population. Is it really sensible, sustainable and cost effective to recreate the labour camps that we had with the offshore industry, which involved massive shifts of population and skills from the central belt? People travelled the length of Scotland, created such camps, left them and came back again. Why was no weighting given to population and skills capacity?
Is it really competitive to spend £20 million or £30 million to bring some sites to the market when we can achieve that objective for around £5 million with a site such as Inchgreen dry dock in Greenock?
We must also recognise that the matrix included a 25 per cent weighting for proximity and geography. That is surprising. Things have moved on and there are sites up and running on the east coast of Scotland. They are competing in the market and doing work for the west coast of Ireland, so there is no competitive disadvantage. I wonder why that 25 per cent weighting was added to the matrix.
Those points are not insignificant for my area and constituency, because they lost out very narrowly indeed to those that made the list of preferred sites. The Clyde area, with its population, skills base, deepwater docks and infrastructure, stands to lose out given that it did not make the list. It is difficult to understand why, when the country came together to ensure that the UK Ministry of Defence contract resulted in jobs for the shipyards on the Clyde, a misguided plan proceeded that will diminish the opportunity that those Clyde facilities will have to take part in the renewables manufacturing industry in the future.
The significant potential of the renewables industry is surely an opportunity for the whole of Scotland. I hope that the Scottish Government will re-examine the matrix and weighting that were applied for the national renewables infrastructure plan to ensure that access to those significant opportunities is not hindered in any way.
In conclusion, I ask the minister to accept that we need to spread the gain, wealth potential and opportunity across Scotland. We must look again at the national renewables infrastructure plan to ensure that we are promoting effectively and aggressively the best of our physical resources and skills so that we can bring those green jobs to Scotland.
- Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD):
I start by adding my welcome to Fergus Ewing in his new post and by recording my thanks to his predecessor, Jim Mather, for the role that he played during the past four years in taking forward the vision—one that we shared—of realising Scotland’s potential as a global green energy powerhouse. I do not expect the new minister to treat us to the same level of mind mapping that we became used to in the past four years, but in keeping with tradition, and as he gets to grips with his new brief, I hope that he will keep the chamber updated on his extensive reading list.
I welcome the fact that, notwithstanding Jackson Carlaw’s legitimate criticism, the Government has taken the early opportunity of bringing these issues and this debate to Parliament. As well as its new-found claim of being the most southerly bastion of liberal democracy in Scotland, the constituency that I am proud to have been re-elected to represent enjoys a long-standing reputation as the centre for the development of marine renewables in this country and worldwide. If Scotland is to achieve its ambitions, it will rely heavily on Orkney being able to deliver its full potential during the coming years.
There is every reason for confidence. As Scottish and Southern Energy makes clear in its briefing, Scotland is
“blessed with an abundance of clean energy, and it is technically feasible to harness it, not only to meet the equivalent of Scotland’s entire electricity needs, but as part of a wider electricity system, to export significant volumes to other countries.”
That view is backed by the Garrad Hassan report, “The Power of Scotland Renewed” so, as the motion states, we are right to be looking to move faster and further in delivering our green energy ambitions for Scotland.
The minister will recall that our parties shared the 100 per cent target at the election. The act of setting targets has attracted criticism in the past, as I am sure Sarah Boyack will testify, but the track record in this area and in energy efficiency demonstrates the value of such targets in providing a clear focus and a signal of political intent.
As ACE points out, while the 100 per cent by 2020 target is achievable, improved demand reduction will inevitably make our renewables target easier to achieve. As the lowest cost of energy is the unit not used, it also brings benefits for tackling the scourge of fuel poverty. It is unfortunate that, unlike Sarah Boyack’s amendment, the motion does not reflect the importance of demand reduction, although the minister did reflect it in his opening remarks. As Sarah Boyack and Rob Gibson said, we cannot underestimate the need for ambition in that particular sphere.
The motion is absolutely correct in recognising the significant wealth and job creation opportunities that will come from a move to a low-carbon economy, including in the decarbonisation of our heat and transport sectors. While that process is a necessary response to climate change and the need to manage our finite resources more sustainably, we should be bold in declaring our ambitions for mobilising the low-carbon army in Scotland. That will need further investment in skills, with Government and its agencies working hand in glove with industry and the further and higher education sectors. Again, it would be helpful to hear details from the minister about what is planned in that respect.
Likewise, while much attention is focused on technology development, the lion’s share of the jobs and wealth is likely to be generated through the supply chain. That is patchy and we need to find ways of supporting the provision and maintenance of, for example, vessels to the sector from the North Sea, and of incentivising local investment in vessels. That is one way of capturing for Scotland as much as possible of the value of this fledgling industry.
At a more local level, capturing and retaining job and economic opportunities are equally important. I welcome the motion’s recognition of the benefits that can be secured through maximising scope for local ownership, for example. That might not be appropriate in every case, but I know from experience in Orkney that many communities have the skills and the appetite to take on more responsibility and control over developments in their communities. It is right that we support that, given the wider benefits that it delivers in enhancing self-sufficiency, promoting economic development and maintaining population in some of our more remote areas.
That brings me on to the motion’s reference to the Crown estate. Like many others, I believe that the current arrangements are not sustainable and that change is desirable and inevitable. For example, there is potential conflict inherent in the Crown Estate’s regulatory and licensing roles and that needs to be addressed. However, it is also right that we should look at how the benefits from the development of the renewables industry can be harnessed to support our island and coastal communities. That is where the Government’s demand for the devolution of the Crown estate is unsatisfactorily vague. Andy Wightman argues that the SNP’s game plan is hard to determine and that it needs a plan B or C.
Greater accountability for what the Crown Estate does in Scotland is absolutely necessary, but locking up revenues in Edinburgh is little better than the present arrangement. In that regard, I would be interested to know whether the minister is inclined to support the idea of an islands and coastal communities fund.
There is undoubtedly a large degree of political consensus on the issues that we are debating. In the past, John Swinney has generously acknowledged the extent to which, over the past four years, he has been able to build on the solid platform that was laid by Jim Wallace and, later, Nicol Stephen. More recently, thanks to the leadership that Chris Huhne has shown, we have had a series of announcements that have demonstrated a real commitment to making the transition to the low-carbon economy. Ofgem’s remit is being reviewed, while project transmit offers genuine hope that a charging regime will be put in place that reflects the needs and realities of our energy system in the future rather than those of the past.
Chris Huhne has also taken the lead on the massive investment in the grid, ports and other infrastructure that is needed to make the transition possible. Not only have his plans for a green investment bank been widely supported, but they have given rise to a broad-based campaign to have it located in Scotland, which I very much welcome.
On the fossil fuel levy surplus, after years of inaction, progress has finally been made to unlock those vital funds. I understand the industry’s impatience for that investment to be deployed as quickly as possible, and I hope that progress can be made in the near future. Such progress is certainly more likely now that some of the First Minister’s more hysterical rhetoric has been replaced by more measured and conciliatory tones.
Although the Government’s motion expresses much that I entirely agree with, I do not feel able to give it my support, for the reasons that I have outlined. That said, I remain committed to working with the minister and the Government to realise the overall and shared objective of moving faster and further to secure our future as a green energy powerhouse. In the meantime, I look forward to the remainder of the debate.
- The Deputy Presiding Officer (John Scott):
I call Marco Biagi, who will make his first speech in our Parliament. He will be followed by Kenny Gibson.
- Marco Biagi (Edinburgh Central) (SNP):
It is a pleasure and an honour—and, indeed, the best kind of duty—to speak for the first time in the Parliament on behalf of the voters of Edinburgh Central who sent me here. I thanked them on the morning of 6 May, and I will be thanking them for the next five years, but let me again record my thanks to them.
During the campaign that led up to that, as members might expect from the tenor of that campaign, I found myself, as a Scottish National Party candidate, talking about our 100 per cent clean energy target until I was green in the face. In doing so, I realised that there is something quintessentially Scottish about renewable energy. If he feels that I am moving from prose into poetry, I advise Mr Carlaw to remember that that is what the Scottish people desired 14 years ago.
Renewable energy is not the most tartan and shortbread of topics, but it brings out two very important, and conflicting, aspects of the Scottish national psyche, if such a thing can be said to exist. First, there is the high esteem in which we hold engineering and manufacturing, science and innovation, which has run through everything that has been said. When I was sworn in, I paid homage to the Italian side of my background but today, as we move into the territory of offshore and marine renewables, I pay greater tribute to the Scottish side—the shipbuilding Jamiesons who worked in Denny’s of Dumbarton. I know that it is traditional to go straight into talking about one’s constituency but, the last time that I checked, there were no shipyards in Lochrin basin, so I will work with what I have.
Denny’s was part of a national industry. Sadly, it closed a great many years ago, in 1963. That gives the lie to the suggestion that it was only under Mrs Thatcher’s Government that Scotland’s industry was allowed to decline. Denny’s firsts included its making of the first all-steel merchant ship, the first commercial turbine steamer and the first all-welded ship. Regrettably, it has been too many years since Scotland has been able to drum out such a hammer beat of industrial firsts, but I think that that time may be coming again.
If the value that we attach to engineering is among the better angels of our nature, our nation’s often chronic lack of self-belief sits on the other shoulder, constantly whispering doubts in our ear. Those who would talk us down have always been on hand to help. During the campaign, at my final hustings, I was accused by the Labour Party candidate of offering “pie in the sky”. It was no person present here who said that—just to explain, there is a community council that straddles two constituencies. It was one of those awkward moments when it is easy to feel the nervous shuffle of feet in a room even though everyone is sitting down. For a country that has been taught to talk itself down, standing up and standing out as one of the world’s leaders in renewable energy does not come easily. It is uncomfortably like that dreaded trait—showing off.
In Scotland, we now have a spring in our step. The remaining challenge for we MSPs is to keep showing how the goal relates to lives. That means jobs, primarily, to the constituents that I represent. The target of having 100 per cent renewable energy is a great symbol that offers a warming sense of ambition. However, on its own, it does not offer comfort to the 17-year-old school leaver in Dalry.
Finding and moving to clean energy is not just our responsibility, it is also an opportunity for people from all walks of life: the welder in the yard building the offshore turbine; the business people in meeting rooms in foreign countries securing deals to export our expertise; or the young Edinburgh university graduate engineer at her desk, on a team designing the next big thing in tidal power; and all the jobs that depend on those people. I hope that the renewables route map, or road map—whatever we want to call it—will mainstream such opportunities, as today’s motion suggests.
If we talk of green energy in the same terms as oil was spoken of in the 1970s, it is because it is on at least the same scale. We should not be afraid to accept that. Last year’s offshore valuation study estimated that eventual income from direct sales of North Sea electricity would reach £14 billion. That is just from the electricity; it ignores the expertise, skills and all the linkages that happen in any economy. That wealth must not be frittered away like the wealth before it. It must be used wisely and it must be shared. In that respect, we have two more good Scottish values to commend.
The capital, Edinburgh, is near the front of any queue for economic benefit. Right now, however, there is one pressing issue for the city, which is whether we will provide the location for the UK’s green investment bank. Next week, I will host the first member’s debate of the session on the subject, which is a privilege for any member, but particularly for a new member. The value of the green investment bank will not be measured by the size of its payroll or the extent of its capital. It is true that there are issues about how it will be funded and in what it might invest, but we can have our disagreements on those points later. What we can do now is come together and back the excellent campaign being run by Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce in the interests of the city. We can agree that locating the green investment bank in Edinburgh would be a vote of confidence in Scotland and a message to the world that on renewable energy, instead of looking to London, Paris, Frankfurt or Zurich, it should look first to Edinburgh. Scotland has been called Europe’s geographic periphery; now, instead, we can be the new frontier.
- Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP):
I am absolutely delighted to follow such a thoughtful speech from my new colleague, Marco Biagi. He is a welcome addition to our benches. I also welcome you, Presiding Officer, to your new post.
Throughout the election, parties across the political divide rightly spoke about their desire to create jobs and grow the Scottish economy to offer our young people meaningful and skilled employment opportunities, boost manufacturing and exports, and ensure that Scotland becomes a low-carbon economy and a responsible nation with a determination to produce clean energy and to cut emissions. Through the research, design, testing, manufacturing and maintenance of renewable energy technology, we can fulfil our ambitions to reindustrialise Scotland and provide Scots with the well-paid and skilled jobs that they deserve and require.
The SNP has set out an admittedly ambitious vision to make Scotland the powerhouse at the centre of Europe’s renewable energy revolution. We make no apology for the scale of that ambition. Producing 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity needs from renewable sources by 2020 will not be easy, but it can be achieved. The sheer scale of Scotland’s renewable potential gives us the optimism and belief to set such targets.
Last month, Professor Stephen Salter, who has been called the father of renewable energy, and seven leading businessmen publicly backed SNP plans to supply all of Scotland’s electricity needs through renewables by 2020. Earlier this year, Professor Salter was awarded the inaugural Saltire prize medal in recognition of his outstanding role in the development of marine renewables. His endorsement comes on the back of the support from industry leaders and environmental groups that the 100 per cent renewables target received.
Professor Salter said that the SNP
“is right to say that Scotland can generate more electricity from renewable energy than it uses. We can also produce enough electricity to drive plant to synthesise liquid fuels and gas. We have vast renewable resources in Scotland, especially around our shores. Coupled with decades of engineering excellence and a strong industrial base, Scotland will become a clean green energy hub.
There have always been those who doubted our capacity for generating our electricity needs from renewables. I find that lack of ambition depressing and even a threat to this massive opportunity.”
Jackson Carlaw should take note of that. Professor Salter went on to say:
“Meeting the target by 2020 ... will depend on many factors, not least political leadership but they are achievable and exactly the kind of targets our Government should set.”
However, the targets will never be achieved unless somebody with sufficient determination sets them. Alex Salmond has that determination. Professor Salter continued:
“We are only starting to tap into the vast potential of our seas such as offshore wind, wave and tidal energy and should absolutely aim for the equivalent of 100% by 2020.”
- Jackson Carlaw:
The SNP has the ambition, but if it fails to achieve its aims, what is plan B?
- Kenneth Gibson:
We are planning for success, Mr Carlaw. We are not planning for failure.
Niall Stuart, the chief executive of Scottish Renewables, added:
“We welcome the SNP’s ambition and continued commitment to maximising renewable investment in Scotland. This pledge gives investors certainty and will help attract more developers and manufacturers to Scotland. It’s ambitious but can be achieved with the right market framework, investment in grid infrastructure and skills, and the right balance in the planning system.”
There was a further boost to the SNP’s renewables policies when Ignacio Galán, the chairman and chief executive of Iberdrola, whose company owns ScottishPower Renewables, said:
“Scotland is at the forefront of the renewable revolution ... it is entirely credible to see Scotland producing 100% of its own electricity requirements from renewables by 2020 as well as continuing to produce power from a range of other sources. Iberdrola are keen to be a key part of the investment required to bring that power into production.”
Other parties show little ambition or leadership. Mr Carlaw has again given evidence of that. If it was left to them, Scotland would find itself left behind in the renewables revolution sweeping Europe. We cannot let them cost Scotland jobs and investment.
Our vision to reindustrialise Scotland and North Ayrshire will bring tens of thousands of jobs to communities across the country. North Ayrshire will not be left behind and we will not let this opportunity pass Scotland by.
Two days ago, I met representatives of SSE Renewables, and we discussed a proposal from my constituency, showing how things can work locally. There are plans to produce an offshore turbine testing station, which it is hoped will be in operation by as early as February next year. The station will test turbines to ensure that all faults—or any problems with gearboxes, for example—are resolved in true, sea-type conditions before the turbines are taken out to sea. Eighteen sites across Scotland were considered, and SSE Renewables made it clear that Hunterston was far and away the best. One hundred and thirty-eight turbines will be established 8 miles from Islay, which will create 690MW of electricity capacity. There will be a spin-off to the local community, with tender valuation criteria ensuring that local companies are able to get some of the work. There will also be a gain for the community because of the leap in the number of local apprenticeships. Over the next two or three years, it is hoped and expected that research and development facilities, and manufacturing facilities, will be established at Hunterston.
- Duncan McNeil:
I am interested in Hunterston—we built a power station not far from my constituency. Eleven sites have been identified, of which Hunterston is one. There is a total requirement of £223 million; Hunterston alone requires £65 million. The sites need to be up and running by 2013-14, so is Mr Gibson not concerned that we are running out of time for Hunterston? Does he not agree that the minister will need to reconsider the renewables infrastructure plan?
- Kenneth Gibson:
I think that the minister continues to review the infrastructure plan. I spoke to people at Hunterston on Tuesday, and they seemed perfectly happy with the timescale. They seemed to think that by 2014 there will, indeed, be manufacturing at that location, and that there would be developments offshore. There are technical issues, but the intention is to resolve them. I have quoted Niall Stuart and made the point that the people who will be investing the money and creating the industries believe that the SNP’s ambition in this area will help to set the market conditions that will ensure that what we want to achieve is deliverable.
- Claudia Beamish (South Scotland) (Lab):
I am delighted to speak in this debate on a subject that is close to my heart. As we have heard, it is close to the hearts of many other members across the chamber, which is very exciting. I also acknowledge the significant contribution that was made by Karen Gillon in changing people’s lives during her 12-year term as Clydesdale’s MSP.
It seems more than three weeks ago that I was working with pupils as an eco-schools co-ordinator in a rural Clydesdale primary school. I commend that programme and others, such as WWF Scotland’s one planet schools and the Dumfries Crichton Carbon Centre’s carbon busters project. Thanks to the pupil eco-committee at Braehead primary school, the new school has underfloor heating from a ground-source heat pump and light pipes, both of which save electricity. One primary 7 pupil always had to sit under a light pipe and bask in the natural light because he felt that he was the one who had got that into his school. Sustainable school buildings must be standard throughout Scotland—I hope that the minister will take note of that and act on it. Here is a generation who understand how to live sustainably and who keep their parents up to the mark.
I ask the Scottish Government to ensure that those programmes continue. Scotland will have not only young people who are eager to be our solar roof fitters and our marine tech inventors, but citizens who contribute strongly to transition communities. I also ask the Scottish Government to prioritise training for those who are already in the energy sector, liaising with the unions so that Scotland benefits from the transferable skills of those working in oil, gas and nuclear as we move forward and the renewables industries grow.
Having been central to establishing the first renewables targets with Scottish Labour, I commend the Scottish Government on its challenging target of generating 100 per cent of energy from renewables—the boldness will be judged by the delivery. I also welcome the route map. However, I emphasise that if Scotland is not just to become the green powerhouse of Europe but to move faster and further in a fair way, there are issues that the minister must address. Large developments, whether marine or onshore, are frequently controversial. Local authority guidance must ensure that communities have a real involvement in the process. Where the applications go ahead, communities must have the power in all senses of the word, whether that involves ownership of a turbine or the opportunity to give pensioners free electricity.
The motion and the amendments show that the Scots whom we represent want change and to be part of that change—it is not being driven just by eco-school warriors. Across the south of Scotland, urban and rural communities, individual households and businesses are starting to make the transition and need support. I spent an evening with Tweedgreen, in Peebles, listening to residents planning their sustainable future. They ask that the climate challenge fund be retained. Wiston Lodge, in Clydesdale, aims to conserve and develop buildings on the old estate, leading to energy efficiency and the reduction of energy use. Cream o’ Galloway, a sustainable business with the best whisky ice cream in the south of Scotland, is asking for a carbon-cutting mentoring scheme and an adequately funded loan investment scheme with a higher upper limit. I seek assurances from the minister that he will support those communities, expand and increase the community and renewable energy scheme and ensure that the funding for community renewables schemes does not run out, as it often has in the past.
As a member of the Scottish Co-op group of MSPs, I intend to promote that model both as a structure through which communities can take power into their own hands, on and off grid, and as a model for the manufacture of renewable energy, the technology for which will bring jobs to Scotland and can be exported throughout the world. We must ensure that Co-operative Development Scotland has the expertise to advise and the funds to support.
Most important of all, I am certain that we have a responsibility to ensure that those households that are on low incomes or benefits are not left out of our new powerhouse. In that context, it is a great cause for concern that the fuel poverty budget was cut by a third in February, and I ask the minister to give us some reassurance on this issue, which relates closely to our amendment.
On a more positive note, I want to highlight the work of the Energy Agency in Hadyard Hill in Ayrshire, in the region that I represent. It is blazing a trail in universal, area-based energy efficiency schemes. Given that, in 2050, at least 80 per cent of our building stock will be the same as it is now, we must consider retrofitting, and schemes such as the one that I am talking about will help to tackle fuel poverty and reduce fuel demand across the communities, which is essential if we are to meet our carbon reduction targets. Energy efficiency is just as much part of our new vision across the chamber as renewable energy itself.
As a candidate in the south of Scotland, I was asked many questions about climate justice. We can work across the Scottish Parliament on many of those issues, along with the environmental non-governmental agencies and the communities.
I have a vision—which I know that many of us share—of communities living in warm homes that are heated and lit by their own power. The people whom I represent want that. Although I know that it is too late now, I suggest that we need another word in the title of this debate. That word, which I ask the minister to consider throughout his deliberations, is “fairer”, because we need the future to be fairer as well.
- Derek Mackay (Renfrewshire North and West) (SNP):
Presiding Officer, I am honoured to be standing before you as the member for Renfrewshire North and West. This new constituency brings together much of what were previously the Paisley North and the West Renfrewshire seats, so I would like to say a few words about Wendy Alexander and Trish Godman.
Wendy Alexander had considerable political clout and profile. She is probably a workaholic, which is a common trait in many politicians, but I know that she has a deep affection for her children and has chosen to spend more time with her family. I wish her well.
Trish Godman was, of course, a respected Deputy Presiding Officer and carried out her duties with great dignity. I am sure that I speak for everyone when I say that efforts to intimidate members of this Parliament are repugnant and will serve only to unite us, not divide us.
It would be remiss of me not to mention my Conservative opponent in the election, Annabel Goldie. Annabel is a formidable force and is widely respected. I recall that, at the count, Annabel declared that she would be keeping an eye on me. Little did I know that she would have more time to do so over the next few years.
I would like to mention a special constituent of mine from Kilmacolm, whom I was honoured to visit as her constituency MSP. My constituent is none other than the minister’s mother, Madame Ecosse, Winnie Ewing, who reconvened the Parliament in 1999 and is an inspiration to all in the SNP.
On the final day of the previous parliamentary session, the First Minister was in Renfrew, my home town, to welcome the news of a massive investment in the renewables sector, with a renewables centre of excellence at the Westway site, coupled with Steel Engineering creating a further jobs and apprenticeships boost. My grandfather, John Tierney, worked in the Babcock site in Renfrew, as did thousands of other men. It is part of our industrial past, so it is with great pride that we give a future to this site as a dynamo in the renewables economy. The rivers Cart and Clyde, a proud part of Scotland’s industrial revolution, will be brought back into use by such companies to transport products in specially designed vessels.
The manufacturing of systems and structures, such as the Pelamis wave power machine, have created much excitement in the industry and I look forward to the outcome of the pilot scheme. This industry is all about potential, and we have the opportunity to turn potential into reality, plugging Scotland into a sustainable future, creating jobs, making Scotland greener and revitalising our economy—a true public-private partnership, encouraging Scotland’s entrepreneurial spirit.
The SNP Government has outlined challenging plans, and it was this Parliament that set the most ambitious climate change targets in the world. It is, therefore, hardly unreasonable that the Parliament that set the most ambitious targets in the world should have the same powers and the same economic levers as other places in order to ensure that we can access our immense wealth.
In these early days of the session, I have heard Opposition members ask why we want new powers, which is a fair question. For the renewables industry—particularly offshore renewables—to flourish, unnecessary barriers must be removed. We want the fossil fuel levy, as our share will allow us to invest £200 million in the renewables industry now. We want the administration of the Crown estate to be transferred, because as quickly as we develop ways to unleash our clean energy potential, the Crown Estate Commissioners find a way to tax them. For the record, despite being titled the Crown estate, the coastline and seas of Scotland belong to the people, not to a monarch.
While the SNP Government strengthens ports and manufacturing facilities, the UK Government levies taxes on progress. While the SNP Government offers incentives for innovation, the UK withholds investment. We cannot be the greenest country in the world with one hand tied behind our back. We have an abundance of natural wealth: it is not just another cash cow for the London chancellor.
Scotland. We have all the energy, now give us the power. One does not need to be a nationalist to believe in equipping this Parliament with the means of delivery. Those who say that our targets are too ambitious or unnecessary often have an interest in seeing the renewables sector fail. Scotland does not need or want nuclear, and we will not let it become the UK’s nuclear waste dump. The UK’s obsession with nuclear has stunted its thinking on renewables, which has resulted in an appalling performance. A UK Government may well decide that it desires or requires nuclear, but we have no need for that in Scotland. As our sites are gradually decommissioned and replaced with safer alternatives, talk of the lights going off is simplistic and misguided. Expert opinion shows that we have the potential to meet—and indeed to exceed—the 100 per cent target for 2020. That will allow us to export energy that is derived from renewables and ensure that we are always able to meet our needs, even at times of lower output.
The Parliament has set a radical course: it should be about not just growth, but conservation and the reduction of energy waste. Scotland is sometimes regarded as the periphery of Europe, but when it comes to renewables, we are ideally located. North, south, east and west, it is truly a national industry. From Orkney to Castle Douglas and Islay to Edinburgh, the industry can touch every part of the country, not least my constituency.
In putting the heart back into manufacturing, locating world-leading research and design in Scotland, boosting our economic performance and transforming our environmental record, the Government deserves our whole-hearted support.
- Nigel Don (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP):
Returning members will know that I generally enjoy speaking rather late in a debate: I try to resist the temptation to repeat what has already been said and instead fill in one or two of the holes.
I wish to thank on the record the good voters of Angus North and Mearns for returning me as their constituency MSP; I trust that I will do them proud over the next five years. I will return to a constituency issue later, because it is pretty much de rigueur in this type of engagement.
I begin by reflecting on what is known as the hierarchy of energy. Pretty much every document makes the point that if we do not use the energy in the first place, we do not have to create and transmit it. What we do not waste, we do not have to produce. I join others—notably Claudia Beamish—in pressing that point on the Government.
In that context, there are three major uses of energy in our society. The first is all the electricity stuff, including the lights that we are working under at the moment, the second is transport and the third is heating.
It is much easier for us to talk about and get our minds around electricity generation than to worry too much about transport and, in particular, heating. However, we ignore heating at our peril. Global warming may be with us, but we are talking about fractions of a degree. We know what a cold building feels like, and those who are concerned about fuel poverty know that we are really talking about living in a building that is cold. We know that that is very bad for our health, never mind our psychology. We must be prepared to address that issue in the future, but I have not heard very much about it today.
One solution to all our problems is microrenewables. Any wind turbine or solar panel on a roof that generates electricity will heat that building or power anything else, which is obviously a very good thing.
I should in passing declare an interest as a director of the Construction Licensing Executive, which tries to help tradesmen in this area to get qualified, although I receive no benefit from that completely unremunerated position. The CLE has realised that there is a considerable barrier to the microgeneration that will be essential if we are to meet our 2020 targets. A colleague of mine has informed me that we need 20,000 microgeneration installations in order to do so; frankly, it does not matter whether that figure is out by a long way. It is already very big and we need to get on with those installations.
The issues that have been flagged up are consumer awareness of the options, the difficulty of finding the money to install equipment and certain technical matters, in particular consistency with regard to requirements for building warrants for solar panels on roofs. One might regard such matters as almost trivial, but they get in the way of people being able to install these things. Either no one knows what the rules are, or different installers give different answers because they work in different parts of the country where the local authority seems to have a different set of rules. We need to sort those things out.
The third issue that I want to address—wind power from the North Sea—brings me back to my constituency. I am told by the many people who are working on the issue that the challenges posed by wind turbines are in many respects quite different from those that face the oil industry. Of course there are certain similarities—for example, the need to deal with deep sea and bad weather—but the approach to maintaining these offshore facilities will be different to that taken by the oil industry to its facilities. For a start, wind turbines will be unmanned and, secondly, it will take a good deal longer to travel out to them. As a result, those involved in operations and maintenance will either have to spend a lot of time on the water—after all, they will not be able to use helicopters—or live out there on some kind of floating hotel. People skilled in the art are already working on such matters but I think that, given the need to minimise the time taken in boats to get to and do something to these installations, there will be greater scope for having more ports.
The basic message, therefore, to places such as Montrose, which is the port in my constituency, is that, if they are the closest to any of these North Sea installations, they will have a role in maintaining and operating them. I suggest to all members around our shores that if a port in their region or constituency sits closest to an offshore wind turbine there will quite clearly be opportunities with regard to its management.
Finally, I welcome Derek Mackay to the chamber and thank him for his excellent speech; I should also mention Marco Biagi’s contribution. I also point out that if members finish early, as Mr Mackay did, they will get brownie points from the Presiding Officer.
- The Deputy Presiding Officer:
Thank you very much for finishing exactly on time, Mr Don.
- Mary Scanlon (Highlands and Islands) (Con):
This is the first time that I have spoken in a renewable energy debate, despite the fact that my son is a project manager on a wind farm that is being built between Keith and Dufftown.
In his statement on taking Scotland forward, the First Minister said that renewable energy was a growth sector. As Fergus Ewing made clear this morning, that is undoubtedly true. The Scottish Conservatives, too, would like Scotland to lead the world in onshore and offshore renewable energy and to make much needed progress on marine energy. However, although there is no doubt that renewable energy will create wealth and jobs, our current and future projections will have to be realistic.
Various speakers in the debate have referred to turbine manufacturers and other manufacturers setting up in Scotland. However, the truth is that about 70 per cent of the money for wind farms goes abroad for the manufacture of turbines and towers. For an average £50 million wind farm, £35 million goes out of Scotland and the remaining 30 per cent is used for civil engineering, electrical work and cables. When the Government talks about multimillion pound wind farms, we should be mindful that at the present time 70 per cent of the value of those multimillion pound projects goes out of the country. For that reason, I very much welcome Kenny Gibson and others talking about the setting up of production facilities in Scotland.
My second point is that the First Minister and others constantly remind us of the jobs to be created. Yes, there are probably about 40 to 50 jobs for about two years in an average 50MW wind farm project. However, when all the contractors have moved off site, about two or three full-time staff are left long term, and technicians are called in for maintenance or breakdowns. There is therefore a lot of employment in the short term but not long-term jobs. Wind farms certainly generate energy, but they are not huge generators of long-term jobs.
My third point relates to the grid connections. Many years ago when we were up the road in the old Parliament building, I met representatives from Scottish and Southern Energy, as I am sure John Swinney and others did, to be briefed on the proposed Beauly to Denny transmission line upgrade. Over a decade later, following a year-long public inquiry, it seems that very little has changed. The people around Beauly still come to my surgeries and ask whether there is any chance of undergrounding the cable and why, although there is undergrounding of cables in Perthshire, the visual impact did not seem to be taken into account in the Highlands.
Further upgrades are required from the north of Scotland to Beauly to maximise the opportunities for tidal and marine power in the Pentland Firth. I say to ministers that I hope that some of the lessons from the Beauly to Denny upgrade have been learned. I hope, too, that communities will be better informed and consulted to ensure that developers can get the grid connection that they need and that Scotland can be the success that we want it to be in renewables.
- Fergus Ewing:
In the construction of the northern section of the Beauly to Denny line, consent for which my predecessor granted, much of the work will in fact benefit Scottish companies and employees.
- Mary Scanlon:
I am aware of that, but little cognisance was taken of the community’s desire to underground the cable, despite the area being a huge tourist attraction.
Much has been said about the SNP Government’s ambition to produce 100 per cent of energy through renewables. However, in the area that I represent in the Highlands and Islands, the Government’s determination to deliver that target is causing serious concern in local communities—another e-mail came in on that today—who now fear that every application that goes to the Scottish Government will be approved in order to meet ambitious goals and that there will be scant, if any, regard to the views of local communities.
Among the communities in the Highlands and Islands that have spoken loudly in this regard is Shetland. Over 3,000 Shetlanders signed a petition about the proposed Viking wind farm for Shetland. The petitioner, Billy Fox, also won a 30 per cent share of the vote in Shetland on 6 May. It is difficult for people to make their voice heard in Shetland when the council owns the land and is the wind farm developer and the planning authority. I congratulate Billy Fox on standing up for the views of the people in Shetland.
On other problems that local groups face in this regard, I received an e-mail today that refers to another wind farm application in the Highlands that had an environmental statement that ran to 2,100 pages. Local people had 28 days to read it, understand it and object to or support the application. Statutory consultees such as Highland Council and Scottish Natural Heritage had four months to study the statement. The document was available for viewing by appointment only at Highland Council offices. If that was not convenient, people could buy a copy for £850. That is not the best in consultation.
- The Deputy Presiding Officer:
Wind up now, please.
- Mary Scanlon:
I am positive about renewables, but let us treat people and communities with the respect that they deserve in the drive towards meeting the target.
- The Deputy Presiding Officer:
I call Dennis Robertson. This is his first speech in our Parliament.
- Dennis Robertson (Aberdeenshire West) (SNP):
Thank you, Presiding Officer. I congratulate you on your appointment.
As the constituency member for Aberdeenshire West, about 70 per cent of which is made up of the former West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine constituency, I pay tribute to Mike Rumbles, who served as the MSP for that constituency. Mike was a hard-working constituency MSP. He challenged the Government on many occasions, but I believe that he did that to the benefit of his constituents. I take the opportunity to thank all the people in Aberdeenshire West who voted for me. It is a great privilege to be in the Parliament and I sincerely hope that I will be able to serve them in the manner that they hope I shall in the next five years.
Much has been said in the debate about our natural resources. The natural resource on which I would like to focus has been mentioned, but just in the passing—it is the people of Scotland and the expertise and talent that we have here. In Aberdeenshire West, which probably has the second-largest number of people employed in the oil and gas industry, we have expertise, knowledge and talent that are easily transferable to the renewables sector. At a meeting that I had with Oil & Gas UK not long after the bombshell of the announcement of the tax increase that has undermined the sector’s confidence for future development, its representatives told me that they are looking forward to the renewable energy sector coming on board. Companies in the oil and gas sector are starting to invest in renewable energy and are looking forward to transferring the skills from their sector into that area.
We have the ability in Scotland, and certainly in the north-east, to take advantage of the opportunity. I sincerely hope that companies in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire West and the north-east will consider promoting students in our universities and sponsoring graduates to enter the world of renewables. The sector is an important one that at present is worth about £8.8 billion. By 2015, it should, we hope, be worth about £15 billion.
Aberdeenshire West is a rural constituency. To refer again to the people, I would like to focus on the smaller industries and agencies that will probably support the infrastructure for renewable energy. I look forward to working with the Federation of Small Businesses in the north-east, because it has great ambitions for the area. The Government has pledged to continue with the small business bonus scheme. I look forward to working with small businesses in meeting the challenge of seeing where they fit in with the renewable sector.
I was interested in Sarah Boyack’s points about communities and community projects. I certainly became aware of those issues during the election campaign. I also became aware of the issues of wind farms. I might at some point hear from Mary Scanlon’s son, given that he is in my constituency. Some people like wind farms and some do not. Some people think that they are a blight on the landscape and some people do not. The issue is certainly contentious, but it can be addressed. We need to be a listening Government and take on board our communities’ concerns about planning applications. The minister has said that his door is open on the issue. I look forward to engaging with him in reviewing and reforming planning. I hope that the planning process will take cognisance of communities, certainly when we consider future onshore wind farms.
It is a great privilege to be in the Parliament and to be speaking in the debate. I am conscious that we need to embrace the talent that we have.
Within our education structure, we need to look forward and educate our children about renewables for the future. The oil and gas industry still has a very important part to play and we should not underestimate it, but, as the minister said, oil and gas are finite resources that will be coming to an end. There are different projections on when they will come to an end, but at the moment the industry is a very important part of our economy and we should still support it as much as we can and encourage it to take its talents and resources to the renewables sector, too.
I have heard from the minister and various other ministers that their door will always be open for debates. My challenge is to find out where that open door is, but with Mr Q at my side, I am sure that I will do so.
- The Deputy Presiding Officer:
Thank you very much, and congratulations on your speech.
- Kevin Stewart (Aberdeen Central) (SNP):
I declare an interest as a member of Aberdeen City Council. I will make no apology for mentioning the council throughout my speech. However, I should probably apologise to my colleague Mark McDonald, who has heard me refer in many speeches to the wonders of Aberdeen’s 1952 local plan. He probably thought that he would not hear very much about that again. However, the minister prompted me to go on about it, because he mentioned the great secretary of state, Tom Johnston, who wrote the foreword to the 1952 plan, in which he talks about—I paraphrase here—the red weevils of bureaucracy holding up progress. In renewables, it is not the red weevils of bureaucracy that are holding up progress but a lack of political will, not in this place but elsewhere.
In a document from the Public Accounts Committee at Westminster, Margaret Hodge criticises the Westminster Government—in particular, the current Labour leader, Ed Miliband—for the lack of progress that has been made in the UK and the fact that we are failing to meet the targets that were set.
Mr McArthur talked about the progress that had been made since Chris Huhne took over as the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. I am sorry, but I cannot see the progress that Mr McArthur is talking about.
- Liam McArthur:
I paraphrase what they said, but on various occasions both the First Minister and the cabinet secretary have acknowledged the constructive relationship that they have enjoyed with Mr Huhne over the past 12 to 15 months.
- Kevin Stewart:
That does not really signify progress. As far as I am concerned, progress would be for the Scottish Government to get the fossil fuel levy that we deserve in order to invest in renewables here in this country. Quite frankly, if we do not get on with that investment, we will be left behind.
Just recently in Aberdeen, we saw the all-energy conference, which is the UK’s largest renewables conference, where countries from across the world had displays. If we do not invest, we will not make progress; other countries will make the running in this sector when it should be us making the running.
I will be slightly parochial and talk about Aberdeen. I am sure that I will be accused of being parochial on a number of occasions in this chamber. Jeremy Cresswell, who is the chair of the Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group, said that Aberdeen’s phenomenal concentration of renewable energy expertise is critical to the success of the renewables revolution—which not just Aberdeen but the whole of Scotland will go through.
I am pleased that Mr Cresswell heads up an organisation that has gained €40 million from the European economic recovery plan for the proposed European offshore wind deployment centre, which will be in Aberdeen bay. I hope that that facility will create jobs and economic benefit for our area and will attract scientists, researchers, engineers and supply-chain companies. Dennis Robertson was right to highlight the part that small businesses should play.
Lewis Macdonald questioned the minister on district heating. I was really pleased that the previous Government invested £1 million in Aberdeen Heat and Power, which is expanding its operation, particularly in the Seaton area of my constituency—long may that continue. Aberdeen Heat and Power has an amazing champion—a formidable lady called Janice Lyon. I hope that the minister will have the opportunity to meet Mrs Lyon soon; I am sure that he will find that quite an experience. I hope that combined heat and power will be expanded in Aberdeen and elsewhere, because it is one measure on which we should concentrate.
Duncan McNeil says that competition is fierce. That is the case in the sector, which is why I do not apologise for returning to the point that we must invest now, because it might be too late to do so in five or 10 years’ time. The Westminster Government must ensure that we get the moneys that we deserve so that we can invest in the future. Let us reap the opportunities for Scotland from the renewables sector.
- The Deputy Presiding Officer (Elaine Smith):
I call Mark Griffin to make his first speech in the Parliament.
- Mark Griffin (Central Scotland) (Lab):
Thank you, Presiding Officer. I add my congratulations to you on your new elected position. I also congratulate the minister on his new appointment and wish him all the best in his new role. I look forward to working with him under his declared open-door policy for members across the Parliament.
It is a great honour to be elected to the Parliament, although it was a slight surprise, as I probably worked hardest not to be elected. I campaigned in Cumbernauld and Kilsyth for Cathie Craigie and I pay tribute to her for her 12 years’ service to her community in the Scottish Parliament and for her many years’ service as a councillor before that. On a personal note, I thank her for the tremendous advice and support that she has given me in the past few years.
The Scottish Government has tabled ambitious plans that have split the opinions of many in the energy sector. I support much that the Government has proposed and I think that most people in the Parliament support the principle of meeting all our electricity needs from green sources, but I must ask whether that aim can be achieved, especially in the timescale that the minister has proposed.
I have several concerns about the cost and sustainability of the Government’s plans. The Government’s “Draft Electricity Generation Policy Statement 2010” makes it clear that a low-carbon energy supply that has no reliance on nuclear power is the preferred way forward. If the Government wants to reduce the current reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear power—I take it that the Government means that in its entirety and that we would not import nuclear-produced energy from other countries—it will have to invest heavily in wind, wave and tidal power.
According to the Government’s figures, investment in offshore and onshore wind farms will increase, but is the minister aware of the concerns that senior meteorologists have raised about the sustainability of wind energy? Official UK Government figures show that the average wind speed in 2010 was down by 20 per cent on 2008. Professor Michael Lockwood from the University of Reading is on record as saying:
“The probability is that decline will continue for the next 40 years.”
Another expert, Dr David Brayshaw, has expressed his concerns and pretty much stated the obvious:
“If wind speed lowers, we can expect to generate less electricity from turbines”.
The wind speed figures and expert opinion concern me and must concern the minister in relation to the sustainability and viability of wind farms.
The Government’s plans rely heavily on private sector investors, who will not be willing to put capital into schemes if wind speeds and electricity generation continue to drop, which will result in a lower return for their investment. I urge the Scottish Government to display a degree of caution to ensure that if deeper problems arise with the wind energy industry, it has plans in place to utilise all forms of renewables to their full potential only while it remains cost effective.
I want to talk about fuel poverty, which is a subject sadly missing from the motion. I thank Nigel Don for raising the subject earlier. Fuel poverty affects a greater number of people with every passing winter. Energy Action Scotland has stated that one in three Scottish households is affected by fuel poverty—that number is increasing year on year and will continue to rise as conventional fossil fuel and nuclear power plants close and supply is switched to more expensive renewable electricity.
While the Government is right to aim for all new fossil-fuelled power plants to be equipped, and existing plants to be adapted, for carbon capture and storage, we should be more ambitious. We should push for those plants to become cogenerating, to get away from the current situation, in which, according to Scottish Government figures, only 35 per cent of fossil fuel is converted to electricity and 65 per cent of the energy is lost as waste heat.
A cogenerating plant, in which electricity is generated and the heat that is normally wasted is pumped into neighbouring communities as hot water, can operate at levels of efficiency close to 90 per cent. That increased efficiency would go a long way towards achieving the Government target of a 12 per cent reduction in energy consumption; at the same time, it would lift thousands of families out of fuel poverty in surrounding communities, allowing the Government to concentrate resources in other areas.
We all recognise that the Government’s plans are ambitious, but unless the minister utilises all forms of renewables to their utmost and reduces the levels of waste heat being discharged from our power stations, the Government’s goal will be unachievable.
- The Deputy Presiding Officer:
I call Mark McDonald, who is making his first speech.
- Mark McDonald (North East Scotland) (SNP):
Thank you, Presiding Officer. Having congratulated you privately on your elevation to the role, I do so publicly today.
Like Kezia Dugdale last week, Mark Griffin spoke today about his unexpected election to Parliament. I share that feeling, although they probably at least turned up to the count in appropriate attire. Nonetheless, I am delighted to be elected, and I am grateful to the 140,000 people who voted SNP in the list in North East Scotland and returned me as a list member.
Having been born in Inverurie, raised in Aberdeen and attended university in Dundee, I have spent my entire life in the North East region. It is a wonderful corner of the world, and it is a great honour and privilege to represent the area. I hope that I will do the people who sent me here justice by representing them to the best of my ability.
I welcome the inclusion of local ownership in the motion and in the Labour amendment. Sadly, it is missing from the Tory amendment, but then so is ambition. Sarah Boyack spoke about energy efficiency in relation to housing. My colleague Kevin Stewart rightly pointed out the success of Aberdeen Heat and Power. As a member of Aberdeen City Council, I had the privilege of opening two Tenants First Housing Co-operative properties that use a model of housing from Canada known as Super E housing, which is an extremely energy-efficient form of housing that significantly reduces household heating bills. I spoke to Alex Neil about that when he was the Minister for Housing and Communities, and I fully intend to raise with Keith Brown, the new Minister for Housing and Transport, the issue whether that housing model could be considered for future new build in the social and private sectors in Scotland.
On Tuesday, along with a number of other members, I attended a thought-provoking and robust discussion event that was organised by Friends of the Earth Scotland at the Holyrood hotel. At that event, I met two gentlemen from Udny Community Wind Turbine Company, Brian McDougall and Mike MacDonald. For those who are unfamiliar with the community of Udny, the parish of Udny lies 15 miles north-west of Aberdeen and consists mainly of the villages of Pitmedden and Udny Green and surrounding rural properties. It has a population of roughly 2,000.
In 2006, the idea of a wind turbine to provide a sustainable, long-term income for the community was promoted at a community council meeting and taken forward by a small group of individuals. They investigated and selected a site, and they engaged with the community, including the schools. The schools in the area were brought in to develop models for a “planning for real” event, and the enthusiasm of the community was captured—so much so that a ballot on whether to proceed with a community wind turbine showed 91 per cent support for the project.
The decision was made to sell the electricity generated by the turbine to the National Grid and to form a community trust company, which would disburse the funds generated by the sale. It is estimated that, over the next 20 years, the project could raise as much as £4 million to £5 million for that small community. That is a fantastic opportunity for the people of Udny, and I very much hope that they will realise it. The likelihood is that the turbine will go live later this month. It has required five years of hard work and dedication by the people of that community, and they deserve significant commendation for their work.
But—and there are always buts—there have been some concerns, not directly with the Scottish Government, necessarily, but in areas that we might need to raise with others if we are to encourage more communities to develop projects in the future and if we are to make it easier for them to do so.
The first of those areas is how communities deal with HM Revenue and Customs. A request was made by the community that I have highlighted—a fairly sensible request, I thought—to engage in monthly accounting, which would make things easier for the community in paying invoices and dealing with VAT. That request was refused, and the people were told that they had to proceed on a quarterly basis. I find that a little bit obstructive, and not in the spirit of encouraging such projects.
The second area involves lending. The loan that the community took out to develop the project comes from the Triodos Bank, in the Netherlands. There were only three banks that the community could look to for finance. One was the Clydesdale, which, unfortunately, was not able to take on the project at the time. The other was the Co-operative Bank, which was unable to do so either. The Triodos Bank, for which the community had nothing but the highest praise, took on the project. It would be beneficial, however, to retain the money within the Scottish economy. Perhaps the minister can see what he can do to encourage other banks to lend to such projects.
In 2006, the people of Udny showed vision and ambition. After five years of hard work and dedication, their community is set to reap significant rewards. In 2011, Scotland showed that it has vision and ambition by re-electing the SNP to government on the back of our ambitious targets for renewable energy generation. Let us all work together in the Parliament to ensure that, in five years’ time, the people and communities of Scotland are the ones who reap the rewards.
- The Deputy Presiding Officer:
I call Rhoda Grant, who has six minutes.
- Rhoda Grant (Highlands and Islands) (Lab):
I welcome you to your new post, Presiding Officer. I also welcome the minister to his post, and I congratulate all the new members who have made their first speeches today, with such thoughtful contributions.
There are many issues to debate regarding green energy, as our amendment shows. I will concentrate on wave and tidal energy. As the minister said, we are currently world leaders in research and development for wave and tidal energy, but we have some way to go before we can harness that power to make it contribute to our energy needs in the future. Although some people overestimate the potential production, it is clear that it can make a significant contribution to energy production. Tidal power is not weather dependent, which is one of the main concerns that has been expressed regarding wind power.
We must renew our commitment to those technologies and their development. Much of the investment can come from the private sector, but we need to create the conditions and the infrastructure that keep the companies involved working in Scotland.
I recently visited the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney and was fascinated by what is being done there. EMEC, which is the first centre of its kind in the world, offers developers the opportunity to test prototypes in a range of wave and tidal conditions, from sheltered nursery sites through to fully worked-up, grid-connected open-water sites.
I was struck by the facilities that are already in place, but it became clear that in order for the centre to be a focal point for research and development, further investment in infrastructure is needed. Companies tend to do their research and development elsewhere and to take their prototypes to Orkney for testing. It appears that we are missing an opportunity. If there were facilities in Orkney in which companies could work locally, companies could continue to develop their technologies on site. The approach would have the added benefit of creating an atmosphere of collaboration, which would speed up development. Companies might not want to move north in their entirety, but if facilities were available in the area there would be an opportunity for companies to base some of their work there.
Companies also need to ensure that they have access to policy and planning expertise. The Government could lead the way in that regard. The minister talked about a one-stop shop for developers of renewable energy; it would be good if such an organisation could be based in Orkney, so that companies that are developing in the field could access it immediately.
In the past, our investment in research and development, for example in oil and gas, has paid dividends. We need to ensure that we remain world leaders in tidal power. It would be unforgivable to lose that expertise and the inward investment that it will bring. We are importing technologies in which we failed to invest in the past—wind power is a recent example.
We need to consider community benefit in the context of offshore generation. In the past, communities that have rights over land have been able to benefit financially from wind power, by becoming joint developers or by taking a percentage dividend because of the loss of amenity in their area. The issue is much more complex in relation to offshore energy. There are obvious benefits to the public purse, which will be gained through taxation, but those benefits will bypass local communities. We have seen that happen in communities that gained nothing from onshore wind farms in their locality, which created very little by way of local jobs and community benefit.
When people were investing in oil and gas, Shetland set up an oil fund, which continues to benefit the communities. Shetland also gained the jobs and inward investment that developments in oil and gas brought. The wider community will continue to benefit from the oil fund. Mary Scanlon was critical of Viking Energy, which is partly owned by the fund, but the company will consider investing in renewables, which will secure the community benefit for future generations, so we need to consider the situation.
- Mary Scanlon:
I appreciate Rhoda Grant giving way to me. I was critical not of Viking Energy but of its lack of engagement and openness in responding to the local community’s concerns.
- Rhoda Grant:
I concur with Mary Scanlon that anyone who is developing onshore or offshore energy needs to work with the local community. My point is that communities need to benefit from developments in their locality.
We cannot generate electricity without having a grid that is capable of transporting the energy to population centres. There is an argument for basing onshore wind power generation near population centres, but that does not apply to wave and tidal power, which is always generated in our most remote areas. I have been told that the west coast of Lewis is probably one of the most productive sites for wave and tidal power, but the interconnector there is already at full capacity. The matter needs to be dealt with now, and I ask the minister to update us on progress on the interconnector when he sums up.
Renewables technology will continue to be expensive for some time, as is always the case when research and development are required. However, it will help to reduce our carbon footprint, so as a society we must be prepared to invest. As Mark Griffin said, we must take seriously the challenges of fuel poverty. Microrenewables are affordable for people who have money to invest; people who suffer from fuel poverty and would benefit from microrenewables do not have money to invest. We need to ensure that the Government deals with the issue and sets up the structures that will allow people who suffer from fuel poverty to invest in renewable technologies.
- Alex Johnstone (North East Scotland) (Con):
As ever, this has been an interesting debate. It is important that I congratulate the members who gave their maiden speeches. We heard from Marco Biagi, Claudia Beamish, Derek Mackay, Dennis Robertson, Mark Griffin and Mark McDonald. It is always nice to hear people giving their first speeches in the Scottish Parliament. They are always wonderfully optimistic and full of the joys. Perhaps, in three or four years, they will become as cynical as I am and we will enjoy that.
On the subject of cynicism, I must say that I was genuinely surprised at the amicable nature of the speech that Kenny Gibson made. That bodes well for the future, but let us not hold our breath.
The debate is characterised by the fact that we have been discussing the subject for a long time. Although progress is slow in relative terms, we have come a very long way in developing green energy during the 12 years that the Scottish Parliament has been in existence.
There are some who have suggested—meanly, I think—that because we Conservatives do not agree with the bulk of the policies that the SNP proposes, it somehow automatically means that we do not believe in progressing green energy. Nothing could be further from the truth, but we would fail in our responsibility if we, as an Opposition party, did not point out some of the weaknesses in those policies. Such weaknesses exist, and I need to our emphasise our points on them.
We heard from Fergus Ewing that we can predict with near certainty that renewables will be a success. We also heard once again the commitment to 100 per cent of our electricity being generated by renewable means by 2020. However, as ever, he briskly skipped over some of the disadvantages. An ambition that requires that change to happen in only nine years will, by its nature, require us to depend on the existing technology, which will force us to develop onshore wind and, it is to be hoped, offshore wind within that short timescale. However, the timescale is too short for effective implementation of marine options. Consequently, it will take investment away from longer-term priorities. That is why I would like the Government to take a broader attitude to encouraging investment over time.
Another point that the Government has failed to take into account and which a number of members mentioned is the need for grid upgrade. The grid in Scotland was designed to take power out from central generation capacity to the far reaches of the country. We now need a grid that will do exactly the opposite. To some extent, in the initial years, the existing grid will have that effect as we reverse the net flow. The problem is that we need a grid that is designed to take large capacity from peripheral areas and bring it to our centres of population.
We can, of course, engineer the grid as required, but the example of the Beauly to Denny line indicates that any major grid upgrade could involve years of public inquiries, could involve massive public protest and, as we know for certain, will require massive investment. No indication has been given today of whether that can be achieved in the nine years ahead.
We heard from the minister a good old-fashioned, motherhood-and-apple-pie speech. Green energy is good—yes, we can all agree on that. We heard a bit of the Government blowing its own trumpet because, yes, it achieved a great deal in the past four years and will, no doubt, achieve more in the next five. However, it again forgets key elements of the problems that it faces.
Renewable energy has expanded largely because, if somebody can generate it, they get paid more for it than they do for other types of electricity. That means that, as we move towards greener, more renewable energy sources in Scotland, the average cost of our energy will go up too.
The Government has, of course, turned its back on the idea of extending nuclear capacity in Scotland. Its alternative to renewable energy is to push forward with carbon capture. The Conservatives want that technology to be developed, but we must consider the cost again. Applying carbon capture to our coal power stations will take the cost of energy up.
One or two members spoke about fuel poverty. I always like to mention fuel poverty because, whatever we do, it is essential that energy be available and affordable in the long term. The Government’s commitment to renewable energy and carbon capture as its only two strategies for generating electricity in the long term will take the cost of energy up, and it appears to have no strategy to avoid the problems.
A number of other issues were raised during the debate, one of which was planning. I feel that I am talking about something that goes back eight to 10 years to when we Conservatives asked the Government of the day to provide strategic planning guidance for local authorities for the implementation of planning applications, particularly for wind energy. I remember being supported by SNP members in opposition when we were making that call, but after four years of an SNP Government, I still have not seen what we wanted at that time. It is still the case that applications are largely called in and dealt with by central Government anyway. We should see stronger guidance on how planning applications should be handled by local authorities, particularly to protect local authorities from victimisation when a local authority that is willing to deal with the issues finds itself inundated with applications.
Green energy is the future. We will support it in principle, but I want to hear the Government answer those questions.
- Richard Baker (North East Scotland) (Lab):
This has been a good debate, and it is right that we should be debating ambitious targets for renewable energy production, because it is an opportunity that Scotland must seize for the future, and we should all embrace that ambition. Like Alex Johnstone, I congratulate all those members who have made their maiden speeches today. From the Labour Party, we had excellent first speeches from Claudia Beamish and Mark Griffin, and we also heard excellent maiden speeches from members of the governing party. Having been fortunate enough to contribute in all the debates that have been held in Parliament since our return, I can say that in each one we have heard excellent maiden speeches from members of all parties, which bodes well for the quality of debate.
Of course, we have also enjoyed the contributions of our more experienced members. Fellow old-stagers have included Duncan McNeil and his well-argued girn for Inverclyde, which ministers will ignore at their peril.
I also welcome Mr Ewing to his new brief. We did not always see eye to eye on justice matters in the previous session, but he always had an open door and was ready to discuss with me why, in his opinion, I was wrong. We welcome that open door and his willingness to work with members from other parties.
The rewards for Scotland in becoming a world leader in renewable energy are clear, in terms of creating a sustainable and successful economy, cutting carbon emissions and reaping the rewards of our involvement in a fast-growing industry. We are keen to support ministers in achieving that goal.
As a member for North East Scotland, I am well aware of Scotland’s potential to be the green powerhouse of Europe through our natural resources and the skills of our people. We are already the energy powerhouse of Europe through our successful oil and gas sector. The skills and technology that have been developed through our key role in that industry are being deployed in the renewables sector. I agree with what Dennis Robertson said about the skills of our people in Scotland and how they give us a significant advantage for the future.
We can agree with and support much of what the minister said, such as the ambition for 130,000 jobs in the renewables sector by 2020. We look forward to the publication of the renewables road map and hope that the minister will take on board some of the points that Duncan McNeil and Mary Scanlon made, such as on ensuring that we benefit from constructing the infrastructure. We hope that a range of the points that members have made will be taken on board.
We applaud the ambition to develop marine renewables. I visited EMEC in 2005 after it first received Government support. We welcome the plans for offshore wind farms across Scotland, including those that will be off the coast of my region. There is tremendous potential there, and, as Rob Gibson said, we should not underestimate the scale of our potential to succeed in the renewables industry and to have ambitious targets for the future. We believe that we should be looking to make the maximum possible contribution to the UK’s and Europe’s renewable energy targets. We look forward to working with the Scottish Government on all those areas.
As Sarah Boyack said, we hope that the minister will follow through on his offer to take seriously other parties’ ideas, and we are keen to discuss with him the plans that we have put forward for a green new deal to create new jobs and to provide low-carbon electricity for 10,000 homes, which Sarah Boyack mentioned. We are also keen for there to be greater co-operation between Government and local authorities to make best use of the feed-in tariff and the renewable heat incentive—which, I point out to Kevin Stewart, were initiated by Ed Miliband—and to look at supporting other initiatives around the country, including the work that is being done on combined heat and power in Aberdeen, to which Lewis Macdonald referred.
A number of members mentioned other important goals. We need further and speedier action on energy efficiency, not least to tackle fuel poverty—Nigel Don, Mark Griffin and Mark McDonald all talked about the importance of that. As Claudia Beamish said, we should be investing in a sustainable schools infrastructure and in the ability of our young people to contribute in future to making Scotland a leader in renewable energy. We think that those are all important ambitions.
We recognise that, when it comes to renewable energy, the Administration has shown no shortage of ambition, but given that, at the end of 2010, around 25 per cent of our electricity was generated from renewables, ministers must be clear not just to MSPs but to the wider public, businesses and taxpayers about how its plans will be delivered. Jackson Carlaw asked whether that would depend on the Government having new powers, but the understanding must be that the commitment was made under the powers that are in place, and we expect ministers to provide details of how they will achieve it under the existing settlement.
As I said in yesterday’s debate, when ministers put forward the case for new powers, it is reasonable for us to ask what they will be used for and how they will benefit Scotland: other members agreed with me on that. Jackson Carlaw identified a general thread in the Government’s motion, which is as much about giving powers to ministers as it is about power for the grid. All we ask is that, on the areas that are outlined in the motion, ministers provide further details on the scope of the new powers that they want, as well as on how they will be used.
We need a fair deal for Scottish renewables, a fair price for the electricity that we will want to import and, of course, the best deal for Scottish consumers, communities and businesses. As Sarah Boyack said, we support moves to ensure that there is a fair resolution to the issue of the fossil fuel levy moneys. We believe that it is fair to ask that Parliament can see the results of the Scottish Government’s consultation on the Crown estate so that we can consider the best way forward. We agree that we want the green investment bank to come to Edinburgh, as that would benefit Scotland; indeed, I am sure that that is an issue on which all parties agree and will be able to collaborate.
We stand ready to work with the Scottish Government to develop our renewables industry for the good of our economy and our environment, and we welcome the scale of ministers’ ambition, but we want to see details of how that ambition will be achieved. The targets for 2020 are impressive but, if they are to be realistic, ministers need to be clear about what they will achieve in the current session of Parliament, so that we seize the opportunity that we have to ensure that Scotland becomes Europe’s green energy powerhouse. We all share that goal, but it is for ministers to set out a clear strategy for how they will achieve it.
- The Deputy Presiding Officer:
I call John Swinney to wind up the debate.
- The Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth (John Swinney):
Thank you very much, Presiding Officer. I warmly welcome you to your post.
It has been an excellent debate—or, should I say, one of the two debates that have been going on this morning has been excellent: the largely positive debate that has involved the Labour Party, the Liberals and SNP members. We have also had a rather gloomy debate involving Conservative Party members, which I hope does not mark the tone of the Conservative Party for the next five years. The common assessment is that the Conservative Party made a constructive contribution to proceedings over the past four years, so I hope that we have not seen the start of a departure from that route.
The issue at the heart of the debate is ambition. It was most appropriately characterised by my colleague Marco Biagi, who set out in what was a magnificent first speech to the Parliament the dilemma that often underpins debates of this sort. The dilemma is that our country’s ambition, which could be fuelled by our tremendous engineering history, invention and creativity, is undermined by the self doubts that have so often characterised this country’s view of itself. If we needed to hear any puncturing of that ambition, we got it from the Conservative Party in this morning’s debate. I commend Marco Biagi on an excellent speech, which set out properly that we have to be ambitious in this policy area. I welcome very much the approach taken by the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats in sharing that ambition and in encouraging and requiring the Government to bring forward the details to substantiate our ambition, which ministers will be delighted to do.
We heard a number of other first speeches today, on which I will comment. Claudia Beamish made a powerful point about younger people in our society and spoke about many of our pupils who are involved in the eco schools project. I think that we have all had the privilege of seeing the absolute focus and determination of those young people to change the world as they know it. Such programmes have been successful in winning over minds to the arguments that Claudia Beamish set out powerfully. I assure her of the Government’s commitment that such work will be carried on.
Derek Mackay cited his experience of seeing the first signs of re-industrialisation in the Renfrewshire North and West constituency, which has a proud engineering history. The area is developing the investment that has been approved and committed by Doosan Babcock. To see that being realised in the west of Scotland is a tremendous experience.
Mark Griffin made a substantial point about the importance of private investment in supporting the renewables revolution. The Government is determined to give the policy the certainty that will enable private investors to evaluate project opportunities and commit to them. Mark Griffin’s point about the importance of private investment echoes my point in yesterday’s economy debate that for our economy to truly achieve its potential, it must be motivated by investment from the private sector. Although we might invest in infrastructure, skills development and other factors that assist the renewables industry, ultimately we require private investment. Policy certainty is a crucial part of that exercise.
My friend Dennis Robertson made a strong argument for how the existing skills in the North Sea oil and gas sector can be transferred to the renewables sector. That gives us great confidence in the opportunities for the North Sea oil and gas sector to continue working on current production and exploration activities in the North Sea as well as to export those skills from the petroleum sector to other parts of the world and diversify into renewables.
The final member who spoke for the first time was Mark McDonald, who raised a number of practical points about taking forward community renewables developments. Ministers will look carefully at his points to ensure that there are no impediments in the way of community renewables, which remain at the heart of the Government’s ambitions.
I have poked a little fun at Mr Carlaw and the Conservative Party this morning, but that is just par for the course on a Thursday morning. Mr Carlaw made the point that 25 per cent of generation in Scotland is nuclear. I simply make the point to Mr Carlaw that Scotland also exported 25 per cent of its generation, so the idea that there is a connection with Mr Carlaw’s point about the lights going out without nuclear is unsubstantiated.
- Alex Johnstone:
Will the minister acknowledge that that is perhaps a disingenuous presentation of figures, given that we are required to maintain a supply of electricity to Northern Ireland through the Northern Ireland connector and consequently will always require to generate more than we require for our own capacity?
- John Swinney:
I do not think that there is anything disingenuous in a statement of the facts that underpin some aspects of current energy production.
I would never have thought that Mr McNeil girns in this Parliament. I say to him that ministers have asked Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise to continue to consider the contents of the national renewables infrastructure plan, and the Government takes very seriously his points about the involvement of and opportunities for the Inverclyde area. As was evidenced by the contributions from Mr Mackay and Mr Gibson, areas that are not terribly far from Mr McNeil’s constituency are already benefiting from the renewables revolution, and we want that to be extended into the bargain.
Sarah Boyack continued her consistent campaign on energy efficiency. We acknowledge the importance of reducing energy consumption, and we are committed to securing a reduction in final energy consumption so that, by 2020, the figure is 12 per cent below the 2007 figure. A number of different measures are in place, including measures to maximise carbon emissions reduction target investment by energy suppliers in Scotland, the work of the energy saving Scotland advice network, or the boiler scrappage scheme, which I took forward in a previous budget on Sarah Boyack’s suggestion. All of those measures are substantial in assisting us to reduce energy consumption, which remains an important part of the process.
- Sarah Boyack:
Will the cabinet secretary confirm that he is interested in talking to us about the principles of building in householder renewables alongside the energy efficiency programme and about our suggestion that we should be much more ambitious, particularly with council and housing association properties where people are in very difficult financial circumstances? Will he work with us on bringing forward more radical proposals?
- John Swinney:
We would be delighted to have those discussions with the Labour Party. They would be appropriately timed, because we are working our way through the formulation of a microgeneration strategy. The point of dialogue is now, and Mr Ewing will take forward that discussion.
The issue also flows into some of the points that Lewis Macdonald raised in an intervention on Mr Ewing on district heating systems, which we also acknowledge to be an opportunity. We have already introduced the district heating loan fund this year to stimulate activity in the sector, and we want to see further growth through the renewable heat incentive, which will open in the course of this summer. I am delighted to confirm the Government’s willingness to discuss such issues with the Labour Party to make concrete progress in advancing many of the opportunities.
Mr McArthur made a point about the fossil fuel levy, which was also picked up by a number of my colleagues, including Kevin Stewart and Mr Gibson. I have looked at the issue in tremendous detail over the years, and I say to Mr McArthur that there is a world of a difference between having an accessible mechanism to release the £200 million of resources that are currently held in the fossil fuel levy and the proposition that has been put forward by Her Majesty’s Government thus far. We continue to discuss with Her Majesty’s Government how we can take forward the fossil fuel levy resources in a meaningful way that can add real impetus to the investment in the renewables sector, which is a clear objective of this Government and one which—it is clear from this debate—is widely shared across the parliamentary chamber and the political spectrum.
My final point is that there is a significant issue that is material to the Government’s agenda: the approach to the Crown estate. The Government will set out its further thinking on that question as we continue to press the United Kingdom Government to change its direction on the Crown estate and to create the mechanisms whereby the people of Scotland can benefit from the development of offshore renewables, in contrast to the way in which they have not directly benefited from the development and taxation of North Sea oil and gas.