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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) [Draft]

Meeting date: Thursday, November 24, 2022

Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Renewable Energy Sector (Economic Impact), Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body Question Time, Portfolio Question Time, National Drugs Mission, Decision Time


Contents


Renewable Energy Sector (Economic Impact)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Liam McArthur)

I ask those people who are leaving the chamber and the public gallery to do so as quickly and quietly as possible, as Parliament is still in session.

The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S6M-06229, in the name of Paul McLennan, on “The Economic Impact of Scotland’s Renewable Energy Sector—2022 Update”. The debate will be concluded without any questions being put. As ever, I invite members who wish to participate to press their request-to-speak buttons now or as soon as possible.

I call Paul McLennan to open the debate. You have around seven minutes.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament welcomes the publication of The Economic Impact of Scotland’s Renewable Energy Sector – 2022 Update, by Scottish Renewables and the Fraser of Allander Institute, which it understands provides the latest economic output and job figures for Scotland’s renewables energy industry; understands that the report demonstrates that Scotland’s renewable energy industry and its supply chain supported more than 27,000 full time equivalent jobs, and that onshore wind supported the most employment across Scotland’s economy from the renewable energy sector, with 10,120 full time equivalent roles, followed by offshore wind with 6,735 full-time equivalent roles, and hydropower with 4,395 full-time equivalent roles; highlights the report’s findings that Scotland’s renewable energy industry generated £5.6 billion of output in 2020; considers that the report found onshore wind had the largest estimated economic output, generating nearly £2.5 billion, with offshore wind and hydropower both supporting more than £1.1 billion output, and welcomes what it sees as the strength of Scotland’s renewable energy industry and the energy security, economic, environmental and social benefits that it brings to communities across Scotland, including in East Lothian.

12:54  

Paul McLennan (East Lothian) (SNP)

I am delighted to introduce this members’ business debate on “The Economic Impact of Scotland’s Renewable Energy Sector—2022 Update”. I will talk about the report in more detail later, but I want to lead with the work that is on-going in East Lothian.

A few months after being elected, I set up the East Lothian energy forum, which recognises the sustainable job opportunities that East Lothian has already and whose number will continue to grow. The forum has four clear workstreams: supply, skills, community benefits and logistics.

East Lothian has existing connections to the grid at Cockenzie, where the Inch Cape wind farm has the potential for 1GW. Seagreen, with its 1.5GW potential, will also be brought on shore at Cockenzie. Merrick Bank, with its 4GW potential, will have its grid connection at Torness. That is 6GW to 7GW being brought on shore in East Lothian alone.

Neart na Gaoithe wind farm, with its 450MW capacity, has its substation in Dunbar and its grid connection in Torness, in my constituency. I met with NnG yesterday. The project currently has more than 100 direct jobs in its Edinburgh office and far more throughout the supply chain. In addition, there will be 50 direct new jobs, which will exist for the full 25 years of the wind farm, at the operations and maintenance base in Eyemouth, just south of East Lothian, on land owned by the Eyemouth Harbour Trust. That base is due to be officially opened in January 2023.

EDF Renewables and its partners the ESB Group are committed to using Scottish suppliers for NnG and have a track record of doing so already. Working alongside NnG’s tier 1 contractors, businesses can be confident that the Scottish supply chain can play a big part in the delivery of the project. NnG is working closely with tier 1 preferred suppliers to encourage them to use Scottish suppliers for work packages at tier 2 and below.

Other projects in East Lothian include the eastern link, a £1.3 billion project jointly managed by SP Energy Networks and National Grid electricity transmission. The project links Dunbar to Hawthorn Pit in County Durham. Again in East Lothian, Fred Olsen Renewables will re-power and extend its Crystal Rig wind farm. Aikengall community wind farm also contributes to the local community.

In the past few weeks, I have agreed a £1 million fuel poverty fund, launching on 1 December, that will help those who are most in need in East Lothian. The world-leading thermal storage company Adin Sunamp was recently awarded £10 million by the Scottish National Investment Bank.

I have also had further discussions about hydrogen, solar and other possible energy sources and about ScotWind, to look at how East Lothian can assist in some of those success stories. Tarmac’s cement works will also require innovative solutions to meet its net zero commitments. We can see in the constituency the benefit that renewable power is already having and will continue to have.

Fergus Ewing (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)

I thank Mr McLennan for the work that he is doing in the cross-party group on the development of renewable energy. Does he agree that, if we are to achieve the maximum potential for renewable energy in Scotland, there must be a focus on speeding up the processes for obtaining permissions, licences and consents, not only for development both on and offshore, but for good connections? Without those permissions, licences, consents and agreements, projects can often be delayed for a long time, threatening the good work that Mr McLennan is advocating.

Paul McLennan

I agree with the member. That issue was discussed by the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee when it considered the introduction of national planning framework 4 and the importance of resourcing Marine Scotland, in particular. It is vitally important.

I will now speak about the report “The Economic Impact of Scotland’s Renewable Energy Sector”. The report presents estimates of the economic impact of Scotland’s renewable energy industry. One key factor is the use of more reliable data. I know that that has been picked up on by the Office for National Statistics, and I would like to hear the minister pick up on that, too.

Scotland’s renewable energy industry and its supply chain supported more than 27,000 full-time equivalent jobs and generated £5.6 billion of output in 2020. The latest available figures show that onshore wind supported most employment in the renewables sector, with 10,124 full-time equivalent roles. That was followed by offshore wind, which had 6,735 roles and hydro power, which had 4,395 roles. If we include spillover impacts, which are the economic activities stimulated across the wider economy, onshore wind had the biggest output, generating almost £2.5 billion, with offshore wind and hydro power both supporting more than £1.1 billion of output.

To demonstrate how Scotland’s renewable energy industry is growing in our progress towards a cleaner, cheaper and more resilient energy system, Scottish Renewables has urged the United Kingdom and Scottish Governments to develop stronger data on the renewable energy sector.

What are the key next steps to grow Scotland’s renewable energy sector and economy? In its briefing, Scottish Renewables recommends that the following steps be taken to ensure continued growth in jobs in, and economic output from, the renewables sector. We need to continue to establish a

“Low-Carbon Industrial Strategy to drive forward renewables-led investment and a just transition for Scottish clean energy suppliers and manufacturers.”

Scotland needs to develop the existing renewables industrial strategy, and the supply chain needs to increase its capacity to deliver the required skills and manufacturing to service all our renewable energy projects. The delivery of such a strategy will provide clear direction for the renewables industry and the supply chain, ensuring that our net zero ambitions are achieved while delivering fresh economic opportunities and new jobs.

Returning to the point that Fergus Ewing made, I note that Scottish Renewables states that we need to

“Complete the National Planning Framework 4 reforms”

to ensure that we have a net zero-driven planning system that is focused on tacking the climate emergency through the deployment of renewable energy. Scottish Renewables was at the NPF4 meeting on Tuesday and it warmly welcomed that as a major step towards achieving a net zero-driven planning system. Adopting the revised NPF4 will also help to drive new investment, deliver on our net zero ambitions and help to achieve energy security for Scotland.

Scottish Renewables states that we need

“a Rural Clean Heat Fund to ignite a transformation of renewable heating solutions for Scotland’s island and rural communities.”

A third of East Lothian is rural. With readily deployable solutions being available, the Government must move at pace to introduce clean heat technologies into rural communities, ensuring that the expertise of tradespeople is developed and sustained, and that is before we talk about retrofitting. Doing that will allow us to phase out high-carbon heating across Scotland’s countryside, delivering new investment, tackling fuel poverty and supporting net zero island and rural communities.

We need to enhance the role that Scottish ports play in building a low-carbon economy through a net zero ports and infrastructure programme. I have had the pleasure of meeting both the Cromarty Firth and Aberdeen ports and seeing the fantastic work that is being carried out there. All ports must be supported to build the essential supply chain and manufacturing base for offshore renewables.

We need to complete an onshore wind sector deal with the industry to deliver the 12GW of additional onshore wind power that Scotland will need by 2030 in order to achieve net zero. Onshore wind is a tried and tested technology that can provide low-cost power, helping to keep consumer bills down and supporting the competitiveness of our renewable energy industry.

We need to support the immediate growth of Scottish renewable energy suppliers by working with them in the near term on net zero projects to assist with the success of local supply chain companies.

With a short-term offshore wind pipeline of 6.9GW and potential for more than 10GW of onshore wind, the existing pipeline of renewable energy projects that need to be delivered is extensive. We need to prepare for the future project pipeline, increasing the economic opportunities of projects and meeting the increased demand for low-carbon technologies while boosting green jobs and skills.

In conclusion, let us look ahead to a bright future for our renewables sector, creating local jobs, building supply chains and moving Scotland to net zero.

13:02  

Graham Simpson (Central Scotland) (Con)

I congratulate Paul McLennan on securing this debate and bringing the issue to the chamber. The Scottish Renewables and Fraser of Allander Institute report certainly presents our renewable energy sector in a positive light. The sector and its supply chain generate £2.5 billion of gross value added and £5.6 billion of economic growth, and they support more than 27,000 jobs, 16,000 of which come from our onshore and offshore wind sector.

However, more must be done to extend investment and job creation outside wind. We must ensure that Scotland has a wide portfolio in the renewables sector. If we continue to put all our renewables eggs in one basket, we will never be fully energy secure. With onshore wind alone generating £2.5 billion, Scotland’s existing wind energy investments should be used to drive investment in other renewable technologies.

Industry experts are in agreement. Jason Higgs, energy transition leader for PwC, said:

“Scotland is facing a continuous rise in the demand for electricity which must be met with a huge increase in low carbon energy generation, new ways of working and a more efficient whole system approach”.

There are, for example, great opportunities in solar. Scotland’s solar industry is now fully subsidy free, with installation companies thriving. Solar Energy Scotland has said that, if the Scottish Government was to set a 2030 deployment ambition of 4GW to 6GW of solar energy capacity, the industry could support nearly 9,000 jobs.

Will Graham Simpson give way on that point?

Yes, I will, because I noticed a motion from Fergus Ewing earlier on this very subject.

Fergus Ewing

I am most grateful to Graham Simpson, and I agree with his remarks on solar power. There was cross-party support for a motion that I lodged recently on the ambition that he described.

Does he agree that some low-hanging fruit can be achieved quite early? For example, the widespread application of solar panels to public buildings would reduce the cost of electricity to the public sector, thereby achieving massive savings as well as contributing to our net zero targets.

Graham Simpson

I completely agree with Fergus Ewing’s excellent point. I have had discussions with people at Glasgow airport, for example, who want to have quite a big solar farm but who are frustrated by the planning system, which has been mentioned by Paul McLennan. We need to unblock such things.

Hydrogen, too, would benefit from additional investment and ambition. Many of the skills requirements for the hydrogen industry align with existing skills in our oil and gas industry. Given funding for projects such as the £9.4 million hydrogen storage facility in Glasgow, ground-breaking schemes could easily be established across the country. Hydrogen is part of the future.

I will say something about the importance of education and skills in renewables. Organisations such as Skills Development Scotland have raised concerns that labour force demand within the industry will not be met, due to market uncertainty. Recruitment of and investment in our graduates continues to be stagnant. Across the UK, we have a green energy skills gap of 200,000 people. Those things cannot be solved by energy companies on their own. The Government must take steps to ensure that young people have the skills for those jobs.

Finally, I will mention small and medium-sized enterprises. Much of the revenue that is generated by the renewables sector comes from large firms. A recent report from the Royal Bank of Scotland details a £22 billion economic boost by 2030 if we meet our net zero targets, and it says that SMEs could cater for 53 per cent of that but that the number of people who work in renewables to deliver infrastructure would have to more than double in order for that to be achieved.

There are lots of opportunities in the sector. That is something that we can all get behind.

13:08  

Stephanie Callaghan (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)

I thank Paul McLennan for leading the debate. Scotland recognises the emergency that our climate faces. We have an ambitious net zero target, and our transition to a clean energy system is well under way. My colleagues have already mentioned the Fraser of Allander Institute report, which highlights that the economic impact of Scotland’s renewable energy industry is not limited to the economic activity of the sector but extends beyond it.

Renewables projects create jobs for people throughout the supply chain, from research and design to the maintenance and development of energy storage systems—all of which have a knock-on impact on local economies right across Scotland, from my constituency of Uddingston and Bellshill to Orkney. Although the renewables sector is flourishing with creative thinking and ambitious policy making, we can support further growth across all renewables, creating massive opportunities for new industries, jobs, training and skills.

I will focus on the Scottish solar industry. Solar is the most democratised form of energy—it goes on the rooftops of homes and businesses and, undoubtedly, has strong potential for reducing fuel poverty, with targeted deployment. However, I argue that it is Scotland’s most underutilised renewable resource, despite being the cheapest energy source that is available to Scottish people at a time of rapidly rising costs. The untapped potential of Scottish solar means that there is a unique opportunity for major growth.

If we look at Denmark, for example, we will see the brightness of the opportunity. Although Denmark is on a similar latitude to Scotland, Danish solar generation contributes nearly five times as much to the Danish electricity mix, on a percentage basis, as Scottish solar does to Scottish electricity. To capitalise on the sunny prospectus that solar can provide Scotland, Scotland needs to be bolder, as other nations have been, and that includes setting a target for solar energy generation. Analysis of UK, United States and European Union employment data shows that, if the Scottish Government set a 2030 deployment ambition of 4GW to 6GW of solar energy capacity, the industry could support 9,000 new jobs.

I look forward to the cabinet secretary’s update on Scotland’s solar vision within the energy strategy and just transition plan that is due later this year. I hope that the strategy will include a clearly defined gigawatt target that is in line with other countries’ ambitious targets, as called for in Solar Energy Scotland’s paper “Scotland’s Fair Share: Solar’s role in achieving net-zero in Scotland”.

Although setting gigawatt targets is essential to provide industry confidence and drive investment, it is just as important that we transform ourselves into a green-skills powerhouse, as others have mentioned, and address our current and future skills gaps. Solar Energy Scotland’s vice chair, Josh King, has stated:

“The potential for solar in Scotland is huge, but a clear ambition and stable policy are vital to capitalise on the opportunity.”

During a recent meeting with solar business Emtec Energy, which is in my constituency, it reiterated the ever-increasing demand for green skills in Scotland’s solar industry. I was told that our culture places too much focus on university degrees and that there remains a societal barrier to viewing apprenticeships as equal. There is a continued need for the industry to partner with secondary, higher and tertiary education institutions to think creatively about routes into renewable energy.

The Edinburgh Climate Change Institute recommends splitting green jobs into three categories: new and emerging jobs, existing jobs requiring enhanced skills and existing jobs that are now more in demand. I applaud those definitions, as it is only when we develop policies and initiatives to target each unique category and attract talent for the present and the future that we can unleash the economic potential of our renewables sector.

As we all know, the transformation of how we power our society is set to accelerate over the coming years, and solar energy, as well as the renewables sector more broadly, will play a key role in supporting the Scottish Government to achieve its net zero targets while helping to target fuel poverty and energy insecurity.

Scotland can be proud of its renewable sector. Our natural resources, education and skills and creativity mean that the outlook is good, the foundations are strong and the potential is enormous.

13:12  

Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

I thank Paul McLennan for lodging his motion, particularly given the timeliness of the debate. Another conference of the parties has just ended, and climate change is in the news, but once again our world leaders have failed to recognise that it is not some future crisis; it is here and now, and it will get worse the more their inaction continues, with those who can least afford it being the hardest hit.

Just as we need to act with more urgency internationally, we need to do so at home, too, and in a way that delivers a just transition. At the very heart of that action needs to be a jobs-led drive for renewables. As we have heard, the Fraser of Allander Institute report “The Economic Impact of Scotland’s Renewable Energy Sector” highlights the progress to date. An estimated 27,000 full-time equivalent jobs contributed more than £5.6 billion of output in 2020, but the Scottish Government’s low-carbon economic strategy in 2010 promised 130,000 jobs by 2020. We were told that we would be the Saudi Arabia of renewables.

What can we do to make that happen? If we consider which sectors can tackle Scotland’s sluggish economic growth and create a greener and fairer country with good secure jobs wherever people live in the country, we find that all roads lead to renewables. Our net zero targets are not a barrier to economic growth; they are actually the path to it. However, to achieve that, we need to break down barriers. Labour has consistently called for a proper industrial strategy that is focused on four missions: delivering clean power, harnessing data for the public good and building a more caring and a more resilient economy.

One of the last acts of the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy Council was to publish a really informative report on the drive for coronavirus vaccines. The report set out how industrial policy was absolutely instrumental in supporting the brilliance of our scientists to deliver those vaccines. It mentioned the targeted investment in life sciences over many years, the strategic procurement and advance purchase of the vaccine and the convening power of the state to bring everyone together—public, private and voluntary sector partners—to co-create and co-deliver that industrial policy.

An industrial strategy involves prioritising which industries to focus on. Imagine what would happen if we brought the same industrial policy focus to renewables as was brought to Covid vaccines. We could have clear targets, such as the target of 12GW of additional onshore wind by 2030 that Scottish Renewables has called for, and the target of 4GW to 6GW of solar capacity, which Stephanie Callaghan mentioned. Crucially, we need a clear commitment to invest in suppliers to build capacity and capability, including of our ports, the importance of which Paul McLennan highlighted, so that the supply chain jobs come to Scottish firms.

That is why Labour has consistently called for proper conditionality when it comes to leasing our sea beds in connection with offshore wind, and for all the funds that come from the recent ScotWind leasing to be ring fenced for a renewables fund that can be used to invest in making our supply chains ready to deliver.

Data is a key part of any industrial strategy. I was struck by the fact that the Fraser of Allander Institute mentioned in its report that its figures were estimates, because we do not even define the renewable energy sector in national statistics, never mind collect the data. How can we understand where skills shortages are if we do not have better and more open data on jobs? How do we ensure that economic growth is inclusive and benefits all of Scotland if we cannot even tell how many renewables jobs there are in my South Scotland region because we do not collect such geographical data?

There are many other barriers to break down to ensure that the positive words in NPF4 on renewables translate to delivery on the ground. For example, we must ensure, as Fergus Ewing mentioned, that consent is given at pace, by the Crown Estate in the case of offshore wind, and by our underresourced council planning departments in the case of onshore wind.

We must also ensure that we help to build capacity in our supply chains by setting out an energy route map, with timelines for a steady stream of work that will give supply chain companies the confidence to invest. If we do that, the prize will be great. We can learn from the mistakes of the past and fulfil the enormous potential of renewables, thereby maximising not only the cut in emissions that we need to deliver to meet our climate targets but the economic benefits, so that we can deliver the genuine jobs-led just transition that everybody wants.

13:17  

Michelle Thomson (Falkirk East) (SNP)

I welcome the debate, which my colleague Paul McLennan initiated in response to the Fraser of Allander Institute’s report, “The Economic Impact of Scotland’s Renewable Energy Sector”.

I, too, have been concerned for some time about the weakness of data collection in relation to Scottish business and the economy, so I am glad that the issue features in the report. I also acknowledge that, although there are reasons to be impressed by the progress that has been made in Scotland, such as the 27,000 jobs and £5.6 billion of output that have been mentioned, the data provides no grounds for complacency. There remains much to be done, and I add my voice to the calls for more utilisation of solar energy, among others.

A recent analysis from Landfall Strategy Group indicated that the prospects for the renewable energy sector are huge and that the current output could eventually be dwarfed. Indeed, the potential is there for the sector to be economically even more significant than the oil and gas sector if policy development is effective, investment is supported and focused appropriately, and the necessary supply chains are developed.

It would help if the Scottish Parliament had the comprehensive range of powers that is needed to address all the matters involved. Currently, fundamental powers, such as those relating to taxation policy, energy policy and the ability to borrow to invest are located at Westminster. Imagine what could be done if all parties here agreed that those powers over Scotland’s renewable energy future should be vested here for the benefit of Scotland.

Given that much has still to be done, I would like to introduce an important area that has been mentioned, which relates to data definition and collection requirements. In that context, I agree with the Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, who wrote in 2019:

“Getting the measure right is crucially important. If we measure the wrong thing, we will do the wrong thing. If our measures tell us everything is fine when it really isn’t, we will be complacent.”

If we are truly interested in impact, it is not good enough to simply extend what has historically been gathered in other sectors and then do the same for the renewables sector. We need to develop and capture new metrics that encourage wellbeing.

Also, as I have consistently argued, we need impact data disaggregated by sex. I can see no reason why the creativity and dynamism of women should not feature strongly in the renewables sector. Capturing the right data will be only the start of ensuring that women are at the heart of the just transition in the sector as it develops.

Some people have argued that part of the problem is that the renewables sector is seen as a market rather than a sector in its own right. Tragically, we have been reliant on data gathered for other sectors—from construction to professional services, forestry and shipping. Therefore, we must collect the right data to inform policy making. I agree with a similar view expressed by members and Scottish Renewables.

In data collection and in ensuring that women and wellbeing are at the heart of all policies, we have a joint mission ahead to which I look forward to contributing.

13:20  

Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)

I thank Paul McLennan for giving us all the opportunity not only to celebrate the progress that we have made so far with renewables in Scotland but to look at what is in store for the next chapter.

The report that we are debating is a useful baseline. It captures the jobs and economic benefit delivered in Scotland to date, but, in the years to come, we will look back at today’s figures and see just how small they were in comparison to what will be achieved. I will focus my contribution on the onshore wind sector and the need to not forget about onshore wind but double down on its progress in the years ahead.

Onshore wind continues to deliver the lion’s share of the economic benefit of renewables in Scotland. It remains the lowest-cost renewable energy and, dispersed across Scotland, onshore wind farms continue to provide predictable supply at a time when electricity demand for heating and transport continues to rise.

Year on year, the carbon content of our electricity generation is falling, largely due to onshore wind. With that, in turn, the climate impact of every electric vehicle and heat pump falls. Step by step, turbine by turbine, we are decarbonising electricity, largely with onshore wind and almost without noticing.

Meanwhile, from Shetland to the Borders, wind farms continue to provide community financial benefit and, with new projects, there will be new opportunities for that benefit to spread more widely and to grow in value. Outside our national scenic areas, wind farms also provide the opportunity for investment in nature restoration, public access and economic diversification at scale in our uplands.

Public support for onshore wind remains consistently high and grows locally once communities have had the experience of hosting turbines. After nearly three decades, we now have a flourishing ecosystem of Scotland-based developers, subcontractors and specialists who are ready to support the next stage of growth in onshore wind. The real challenge will be to match that sector with an equally strong domestic supply chain for wind farm component manufacturing.

The renewed commitment to onshore wind in the Bute house agreement will help to provide certainty to manufacturers and others that there is a strong market and a supportive environment for investment in Scotland. A target of 12GW of additional onshore wind by 2030 backed up by planning reforms and a strong policy statement is the start of a sector deal that will drive investment. Let us remind ourselves that the sector is incredible. It has smashed every energy target that has been set at Holyrood since devolution. It is ready to meet the hardest challenge that it has been set to date.

That growth needs to take place at a scale that has never been seen before in Scotland. The pace of new development will need to speed up. We cannot afford to have wind farm projects languishing in the planning system for seven years, as has been the case recently. We are in a climate emergency. Good wind farm proposals in the right places need to be fast tracked through a streamlined planning process. We no longer have time to wait. The planning system must allow those machines to fight climate change.

However, it is not just new sites and new projects that are needed. Existing wind farms need to be repowered quickly with newer, more productive turbines. Repowering alone means another 600MW to 800MW every year for the next 15 to 20 years, so it is a huge mission. It will be our children who work on those wind farms, just as the hydro schemes from our grandparents’ generations are still spinning and creating employment today.

Endless renewable technologies supporting enduring jobs for generations to come: that will be the renewables story told by future reports. We just need to focus and realise that vision.

13:24  

The Minister for Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work (Richard Lochhead)

I start by thanking Paul McLennan for lodging the motion and all members who participated in the debate for their contributions.

As others have said, the debate comes at a time when Scotland is tackling the twin issues of energy security and the cost of living crisis. In that context, we are pushing ahead at pace with our just transition to a net zero energy system and economy, so that we can play our role in tackling climate change and boost jobs and prosperity in Scotland.

Again as others have said, we are very lucky that we have a rich renewables endowment, which means that we can not only generate enough cheap green electricity in the times ahead to power Scotland’s economy and get away from the high energy prices that we are experiencing, but export electricity to our neighbours, supporting jobs here in Scotland. As Paul McLennan said in his opening speech, the sector is already supporting jobs in his East Lothian constituency and the wider region. That all contributes towards the decarbonisation ambitions of our partners, internationally and across these islands.

The scale and pace of change are unprecedented, which offers exciting opportunities to develop green jobs and a green supply chain.

The report highlights that the deployment of renewable energy technologies is paramount in the drive towards ending Scotland’s contribution to climate change, while bringing considerable benefits to our economy. The report also shows that the sector’s potential is vast in terms of gross value added and jobs. I am grateful to the Scottish Renewables Forum Ltd for commissioning that important work, which is helping bolster the evidence base as we drive forward the just energy transition.

The just energy transition—I am speaking as the just transition minister—is a key priority for the Scottish Government. Scotland’s natural resources mean that we are uniquely positioned to take advantage of the global shift to renewables through a just transition that delivers for people, places and communities in Scotland. We are taking steps to decarbonise the energy system to maximise the benefits of the energy transition for communities across Scotland, while responding to the twin challenges of energy security and the cost of living crisis.

I am clear that the energy transition must deliver for the people of Scotland. A key part of that is ensuring that the renewables sector, and the broader supply chain that supports it, grows in a way that secures high-quality, well-paid green jobs across communities in the country and supports energy affordability for people and businesses. As many members are aware, we will consult soon on a draft energy strategy and just transition plan that will set out, and seek views on, how we will realise those aims and many of the aspirations that have been expressed by members during the debate.

Scotland already has many of the skills that are needed to facilitate the energy sector’s transition to net zero. Our national strategy for economic transformation recognises skills as a critical ambition, and we are investing in the sector’s net zero transformation. Scotland needs access to an agile offshore energy workforce, so that people can transition more easily between roles in the offshore energy sectors. We know that that will not be a one-way transition, and people must be able to work flexibly across sectors. That us why, through the just transition fund, we recently announced funding of £5 million to OPITO—the Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organisation—for a digital offshore energy skills passport, which will empower offshore workers to utilise their existing certification. Many members in the chamber have called for that measure.

We are also delivering a range of upskilling and retraining programmes, including individual training accounts and the flexible workforce development fund, and in 2021, we launched the green jobs workforce academy. We are also investing £75 million through the energy transition fund to support jobs and provide regional growth, and our green jobs fund will invest up to £100 million.

ScotWind is a huge initiative on the horizon, and knowledge and experience of our oil and gas sector and its supply chain will be crucial for Scotland in developing floating offshore wind technologies. ScotWind is the world’s largest commercial round for floating offshore wind. It will raise more than £750 million in revenues for Scotland and deliver several billion pounds more in rental revenues when projects become operational.

We already have a clear pipeline of projects throughout this decade, and a significant pipeline of projects will come from the ScotWind offshore wind leasing round. That is a huge economic opportunity for Scotland. We have had numerous meetings with representatives of the ScotWind projects, and we welcome the collective commitment that has been made to invest more than £28 billion in the Scottish supply chain across the 20 proposed ScotWind projects that have secured lease options.

There are already benefits across the country, including in areas such as East Lothian, which Paul McLennan represents. Community wind farms there are funding the BeGreen Dunbar energy advice centre, for example, which supports residents of Dunbar with energy-saving technologies and funding for eco-friendly community groups.

I will quickly touch on a couple of other areas that members mentioned. Stephanie Callaghan and others mentioned the exciting potential for solar energy. I assure members that the Bute house agreement between the Scottish Green Party and the Scottish National Party mentions solar properly—if I recall—and it will have a much bigger, renewed focus in the forthcoming draft energy strategy, which will go out for consultation.

Hydrogen was mentioned by many members. The growth of renewables and of the hydrogen economy are very much complementary. We need a strong renewables sector and domestic supply chain to support the development of Scotland’s hydrogen economy. We think that that is a massive opportunity not only for jobs here in Scotland but for Scotland’s exports to other countries, as there is a lot more potential demand for hydrogen across countries on the European continent, particularly in response to the energy crisis and to Putin’s war in Ukraine and its consequences.

I should also mention onshore wind. Mark Ruskell highlighted its importance, as did other members. We have a draft onshore wind policy statement, which includes a new ambition for an additional 8 to 12GW of onshore wind to be installed, for a total of 20GW overall by 2030. That is a pretty substantial ambition, which follows a long consultation process. We will publish the final statement with a decision on the 2030 ambition soon, and we will ensure that the benefits flow to our communities and the Scottish supply chain. We can see that there have been significant levels of community benefit across Scotland from onshore wind projects, amounting to tens of millions of pounds, and we want to ensure that that is increased in the years ahead.

I have outlined that we will publish our refreshed energy strategy for consultation, alongside our first just transition plan for energy. That will demonstrate how we will deliver for the people of Scotland, supporting our transition to a net zero energy system.

I again thank Paul McLennan for bringing this important and timely topic to the chamber for debate today.

13:32 Meeting suspended.  

14:15 On resuming—