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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Meeting of the Parliament 20 November 2018

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Topical Question Time, Urgent Question, Best Start Grant (Implementation), Digital Industries, Business Motion, Committee Announcement, Decision Time, Offshore Wind Week 2018


Contents


Offshore Wind Week 2018

The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-14466, in the name of Lewis Macdonald, on offshore wind week 2018. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises the contribution that Scotland has made to offshore wind since planning permission was granted in 2003 for the development of Scotland’s first offshore wind farm, Robin Rigg, in the Solway Firth; considers that Scotland has benefited from many other offshore wind projects in recent years, including Vattenfall’s European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre in Aberdeen Bay, which has been built with the support of EU funding to create and test new offshore wind technologies, Hywind Scotland, a floating wind farm developed by Equinor off Peterhead, which started power generation in October 2017, and the Kincardine Offshore Floating Wind Farm off the coast of Stonehaven, which is expected to be the largest floating wind farm in the world when it is completed in 2020; understands that the contributions made by these and other projects will be recognised and celebrated during Offshore Wind Week 2018, which runs from 19 to 23 November and is an annual event supported by Scottish Renewables; notes the hope that a pipeline of successful projects can be secured in future leasing rounds by ensuring an adequate provision of shallow and deep water sites; further notes the view that government at all levels needs to support the offshore wind sector to ensure that its success continues, particularly beyond 2030, and looks forward to more offshore wind farms being developed in the coming years, contributing to Scotland’s energy mix.

17:05  

Like any designated week, offshore wind week offers an opportunity to recognise what has been achieved so far, to celebrate the vision of the pioneers and to set out ambitious targets for the future. I have been able to see at close hand the growth of the sector over the past 15 years. Scotland’s oldest offshore wind farm is a cross-border project at Robin Rigg in the Solway Firth, and I was the minister who consented in 2003 the Scottish part of that project—one that is well known to my colleague, Colin Smyth.

At much the same time, Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group launched the first blueprint for an offshore wind farm in Aberdeen Bay—a scheme that came to fruition this year with the installation, within sight of Aberdeen beach, of the world’s largest wind turbines.

We should celebrate the vision and drive of all the early pioneers around our coasts, from the Solway Firth to the Moray Firth, but I want to pay particular tribute to both the vision of AREG’s early leaders and the support that they have continued to receive over the past 16 years from Aberdeen City Council and other local partners.

Five founder members of AREG got together to celebrate recently, and lain Todd, David Roger, Jeremy Cresswell, John Black and Morag McCorkindale told The Press and Journal that their eventual success was down to dogged perseverance and “sheer bloody-mindedness”. That is sometimes what it takes, and AREG’s vision of offshore wind as part of Aberdeen’s long-term transition from North Sea oil to a low-carbon economy was and is something that is worth fighting for.

We need to have the same vision and ambition today. Scotland now has committed offshore wind capacity of 4.2GW either up and running, under construction or consented and awaiting development. A further 1.2GW capacity is in the consenting process. That is good, but it is only scratching the surface of Scotland’s offshore wind potential. With a United Kingdom target of 30GW and a European Union target of 74GW by 2030, we should be looking to deliver a higher proportion of both than 5GW or 6GW by the mid-2020s. Our targets for offshore wind should reflect our share of the potential resource relative to the rest of Britain and the rest of Europe, rather than settling for just a bit more than is already in the pipeline. I say to the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands that 10GW of offshore wind in Scottish waters by 2030 would be a stretching but achievable target.

Of course, it cannot be all about wind. Intermittency is a real issue, so new technologies for energy storage and demand management, and new interconnectors must also be part of the future picture. However, offshore wind is a renewable technology that works at scale, is innovating right now in Scottish waters and is steadily falling in price. It is already contributing to carbon reduction, and it can, over time, also help to reduce fuel poverty.

Vattenfall’s largest wind turbines in Aberdeen Bay are the most productive in the world, and their having suction bucket jacket foundations has meant that they were installed quickly and quietly this summer in a matter of only hours.

Also in the north-east, Equinor’s Hywind Scotland development off Peterhead is pioneering floating wind power. That is a technology that is capturing energy in places where other renewables technologies cannot go—or, at least, cannot yet go. The Kincardine Offshore Windfarm Ltd, which is a floating wind farm off Stonehaven, is already following suit and is planned to be the largest of its kind in the world.

With innovative technologies and increasing scale come falling costs. The strike price for offshore wind in 2017 was half what it was in 2015. The sector is moving towards a subsidy-free market, but Scotland will retain and increase its market share only if it continues to foster innovation, and if further growth continues to enjoy support from government at every level.

Crown Estate Scotland and Marine Scotland have been consulting on which areas of the sea bed to lease for future offshore wind farms. The Scottish consultation has focused on deeper water that is suitable for floating wind turbines. In England, by contrast, the Crown Estate is promoting development in both deep and shallow waters. Although it is right to seek to promote the newest technologies, we must not lose out on those that are already well established, or closer to the market. I hope that the minister will urge Crown Estate Scotland to broaden its area of search and to support innovation in fixed-foundation offshore wind as well as in floating wind, and so enable Scotland to reach for more ambitious targets in the short to medium terms.

As Lewis Macdonald will know, I am the convener of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers parliamentary group. We celebrate offshore wind week, and I agree with the comments that the member has made, but does he agree with this quote from the RMT, which said:

“It is scandalous that the development of this sustainable energy source is based on deeply regressive and exploitative immigration and employment practices”?

Will the member comment on those practices?

Elaine Smith is certainly right to say that there have been some examples of exactly what she describes. That is not the way forward for the sector, and I agree with Elaine Smith and the RMT that we need to ensure that development of the sector protects the people who work in it, and that we look to reduce carbon emissions and prices for consumers.

The economic benefits of renewable energy are already significant. There are 2,000 jobs in Scotland, 11,000 in Britain as a whole, and the United Kingdom content of projects is forecast to rise from one third to one half of the value in offshore wind farms by 2020.

Scotland can do even better: joining up the supply chains of all our offshore energy sectors would be a good place to start. The Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organisation, for example, has been doing offshore safety training in the North Sea for many years, and its qualifications are recognised worldwide in the oil and gas sector. They are not yet, however, recognised in offshore wind. Mutual recognition between the two sectors would allow workers to move between them, to the benefit of employers and of people who already work in the North Sea.

Forty years of extracting hydrocarbons has also given Scotland a high concentration of offshore expertise, which could be applied directly by future generations in capturing energy from offshore wind. In subsea engineering and offshore project management, for example, Scotland is a world leader. The Oil & Gas Technology Centre in Aberdeen is also more widely an offshore energy innovation centre that funds research and development that will be of direct or indirect benefit to offshore wind.

Claire Perry confirmed in the House of Commons earlier today that a sector deal for offshore wind is nearly concluded, and will include commitments from operators to increased UK content. That is welcome, and I hope that Scottish ministers will press for coherence between offshore wind and oil and gas sector deals, in order to support cross-sectoral working and to support the companies and individuals who work in and between the sectors.

We should be ambitious for growth in offshore wind; for more and properly paid jobs for offshore workers and seafarers; for supply chain opportunities for Scottish ports and industries; for cheaper power for our consumers; and for environmental benefits for future generations. If we are ambitious, we can, as we know from our energy past, succeed and secure a sustainable energy future.

17:13  

I congratulate Lewis Macdonald on securing this debate on the important role of offshore wind and the contributions that it has made to reaching our renewable energy targets, reducing our carbon footprint, and strengthening our economy.

As we are all well aware, Scotland has been a global leader in renewable energy for years. In 2017, Scotland secured more than 68.1 per cent of its electricity from renewable energy schemes and our renewable energy industry grew by 26 per cent. We now produce 25 per cent of the renewable energy that is used across the UK. Since Scotland’s first commercial-scale offshore wind farm—Robin Rigg—was opened in 2010, we have built up enough offshore wind energy capacity to power more than 1.6 million homes. That means that offshore wind energy now accounts for more than half the installed renewable generation capacity in Scotland.

Since 2011, the number of community-owned renewable energy projects in Scotland has increased by 62 per cent, which means that 456 communities are now benefiting from local wind, solar, heat pump and biomass projects across the country.

From national level to community level, Scotland has consistently shown its support for a sustainable future and its strength in the renewable energy sector. It is predicted that, by 2030, the UK’s wind capacity will double, and that one fifth to one third of new energy will come from offshore wind power.

Not only is wind power cheaper than many other renewable alternatives, but offshore wind is more reliable and efficient than onshore wind due to the consistent and steady speed and pressure of wind at sea.

According to a survey by Scottish Renewables in 2016, there were 16,000 full-time equivalent employees in the renewable energy sector in Scotland. Additionally, our energy sector has spent decades developing its expertise in creating infrastructure to extract oil from the North Sea. Companies such as Briggs Marine and Environmental Services have more than 40 years of experience in marine energy power generation, from environmental research to oil-spill response. With £210 billion to be invested in the European offshore wind sector between 2016 and 2025, we have a moral obligation and an economic incentive to utilise that knowledge and technology to support the growing offshore wind energy sector.

Over the years, my constituency has repeatedly shown its commitment to offshore energy. For example, we are home to the 7MW Levenmouth demonstration turbine—the world’s largest open access offshore wind turbine, which is dedicated to research and training. The Fife energy park gives companies easy access to the offshore energy market in the North Sea and allows us to take advantage of the fact that nearly 25 per cent of Europe’s offshore wind resources pass over Scotland’s seas.

One of the energy park’s current occupants is Burntisland Fabrications—a world leader in developing deep-water substructures that are used for offshore wind projects. Not only is BiFab a globally essential contributor to the offshore supply chain, but it is key to creating the highly skilled jobs that are necessary to attract young people to the region, to increase wages in the most deprived areas, and to create additional jobs as demand for local services rises.

Scottish offshore wind manufacturers will have to be competitive to win contracts in order to ensure funding and to protect jobs in the years to come. That will require increased investment in staff, training, and infrastructure in order to compete with European firms.

In the near future, it will be important to follow the resulting contract terms of agreement deals, such as BiFab’s bid for the Moray East project, because they will set a precedent for all big offshore wind projects in the future.

Sustained support for our renewables sector is absolutely essential to the health of the Scottish economy. Offshore wind energy continues to be a cost-effective investment that supports our coastal communities. Such a commitment will create a range of new opportunities for future energy developments and, as our power-generation capacity grows, we should be able not only to meet Scotland’s electricity needs but to support technology that will allow us to decarbonise other areas of society.

Strong offshore wind energy infrastructure will allow us to support further research by organisations such as the Hydrogen Office in Fife. It is working to develop hydrogen-powered fuel cells that can capture energy that is generated by wind turbines at night and use the stored energy to power vehicles, from cars to freight shipping, and it is creating the first hydrogen heating system. Another example is the Fife Renewables Innovation Centre, which has been leading the way in attracting investment and creating jobs in the renewable energy sector.

I ask, in recognition of offshore wind week, that the Parliament reaffirms its commitment to the sector, ensures that we are prepared to meet increased manufacturing demand, and calls on the UK Government to uphold its promise of long-term support for offshore wind to foster investor confidence and maintain our leading position in the field.

17:18  

I thank Lewis Macdonald for bringing this debate to Parliament in offshore wind week and I echo his recognition of AREG and all the good work that it has done over the years.

It comes as no surprise that the motion has been supported by every party across the chamber, considering the excellent contribution that the offshore wind industry has been making to Scotland. Scottish Renewables reported that Scotland is Europe’s windiest country, and with Scotland having 25 per cent of Europe’s offshore wind resource, it is great to see business take advantage of our natural resources in an environmentally friendly way.

As a constituency MSP from the north-east, I have had the pleasure of visiting Vattenfall’s European offshore wind deployment centre off the coast of Aberdeen. Anyone who has seen the project will marvel at its impressive scale. The turbines are so powerful that developers have said that a single rotation of the blades could power an average UK home for a day.

That is not the only success story that we have heard about this year. Just last month, I lodged a motion congratulating Kincardine Offshore Windfarm Ltd on generating power from its first turbine at what it believes will be the world’s largest floating offshore wind farm. I thank Lewis Macdonald for recognising that achievement in his motion.

Offshore wind has been a fantastic boost to the energy industry in Scotland. It has created over 2,000 jobs and brought £1.8 billion gross value to the United Kingdom, with that figure expected to rise to £2.9 billion by 2030. The potential for supply chains to the offshore industry is huge. Floating offshore wind farms such as Hywind can generate renewable energy in previously difficult locations. A recent report by the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult noted that, with the right support, up to 17,000 jobs and an additional £33.6 billion could be added to the British economy. That would be a fantastic boost to the Scottish economy and would only solidify Scotland’s position as a global leader on offshore wind.

As a country, we must do all that we can to move to clean energy, and offshore wind has been a great step towards achieving our goal. The Scottish Conservatives are committed to maintaining that success and global leadership, particularly as offshore wind is playing a big part in helping to decarbonise the energy supply across Scotland and the UK. With the cost of offshore wind falling by nearly 30 per cent in the past four years, the industry is proving that it is a viable and sustainable part of our energy mix. Scottish Renewables has reported that the offshore wind industry has actually beaten the price target that was set by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy of £85 per megawatt hour by 2026. The Moray East offshore wind farm, which is due to be commissioned after 2020, will mark the first time that renewable electricity has been generated at a price equivalent to that of conventional gas.

It is important that we continue to strive to meet Scotland’s energy needs and climate change commitments. The Scottish Conservatives are keen to see an evidence-based approach to the mix of renewables across Scotland and to diversify so that we are not dependent on one kind of generation. Offshore wind has helped us to move towards a better energy mix across the country. I look forward to working with companies across Scotland in building their offshore wind farms and I hope that the industry continues to thrive.

17:21  

I thank my colleague Lewis Macdonald for bringing the debate to the chamber, and I thank Scottish Renewables for organising offshore wind week. It is fantastic to celebrate the industry 15 years since planning permission was first granted for an offshore wind farm at Robin Rigg, off the coast of my region of South Scotland. I recently visited Aberdeen and was fascinated to see the magnificent giant turbine blades resting in Aberdeen harbour, waiting to go out to sea. To me, they are a grand symbol of progression and sustainability.

The progress of the offshore wind sector since 2003 has been remarkable and, as Scottish Renewables has put it, is a true Scottish success story. It delivers one of the cheapest forms of electricity generation, which means a direct relationship between the cost of generation and the end bill for consumers. Prices per megawatt hour have beaten Westminster targets, as Alexander Burnett said. Vitally, the industry is a boon for Scotland’s coastal communities, which are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and coastal erosion and whose economies have been asked to transition first. The expansion of the industry means that those with marine or engineering experience can shift to highly skilled employment opportunities in a growing network of supply chain jobs. The associated socioeconomic opportunities can only strengthen those communities.

It is somewhat disappointing that, as I understand from the RMT, only half of those who have applied to the Scottish Government’s transition training fund for assistance with training in shifting from oil and gas to renewables have been successful. I hope that the minister will comment on that in his closing remarks. However, to be positive, 2,000 people are currently employed in the sector, and new technologies and innovations suggest that the number could rise. For example, floating wind is a chance for Scotland to be a world leader if it is appropriately fostered. As we have heard, according to a report by ORE Catapult, there is a chance for up to 17,000 jobs by 2050.

Shifts such as that from the more traditional finite energy industry to the renewables sector demonstrate the absolute necessity of a just transition commission. For as long as our economy is transitioning, there should be a commission, and I will continue to press for one to be set out in statute in the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill. Offshore wind will play a central role in Scotland’s industrial future, and that transition must be equitable for the coastal communities and workers involved.

Offshore wind is a fantastic example of how political enthusiasm can drive an industry forward. It was the UK and Scottish Labour Governments that demonstrated an early commitment to the offshore wind industry, the fruits of which can be seen today. It is a meeting point of environmental protection and economic development—a source of innovation that increases competition and lifts the economy, as well as bettering our chances against climate change.

As the Parliament takes any decision towards a net zero economy, we should turn our minds to and celebrate the offshore wind triumph. Scottish Labour is supportive of a publicly owned offshore wind energy company to regain control of the energy supply and transition to a publicly owned, decentralised energy system. The industry holds great potential to speed up deployment and capture jobs and value for the Scottish public, while reducing energy bills for consumers. Of Scotland’s total offshore wind sector, 30 per cent is owned by public entities, which is a good-news story. However, those are not Scottish or UK entities. Although it is a pity that those opportunities are at present outside Scotland, it is an inspiration that such a significant percentage is public. Scotland can be proud to hold the title of Europe’s windiest country, and it is right that that abundant natural resource should be used for the public good.

I look forward to the minister’s closing remarks.

17:26  

I thank Lewis Macdonald for lodging the motion. The chamber has debated many motions about offshore wind over the years. Mr Macdonald reminded us of the private bill in 2003 under the Labour-Liberal Democrat Government to enable the Robin Rigg wind farm to be planted in the Solway. He is right to pay tribute to the pioneers of the Aberdeen Renewal Energy Group—that gang of five, who were such strong champions. I have met many of them at renewables conferences over the years. With passion and professionalism they drove the confidence in offshore wind, and I pay tribute to them tonight.

The rate of commercial progress in the past few years has been simply breathtaking. We still have a quarter of Europe’s wind resource, but the cost per megawatt of harvesting it has dramatically fallen from around £150 in 2014 to just over £57 last year, smashing Westminster’s target of £85 eight years early. The moment when it was announced that the cost of offshore wind had fallen below that of gas was another tipping point in our energy transition and real testament to the innovation that has been developed across the supply chain.

We are witnessing such blistering progress, and the prospect of floating wind as another widespread commercial technology developed in Scotland is very exciting. ORE Catapult’s analysis of the domestic generation potential from floating wind, combined with the potential export market, paints a healthy picture for the economy in some of our most deprived coastal communities.

Like David Torrance, I want to see Fife at the heart of the forthcoming sector deal on offshore wind. The skills and expertise are there in the communities. We have great graduates coming through Fife College at Rosyth, with all the skills for operation and maintenance work. We have skilled engineers and workers, with all the passion, professionalism and integrity needed to make companies like BiFab a success. But we also need the pipeline of projects to come through to kick start the order books for BiFab and many other Fife businesses that depend on it.

The physical assets have to be fit for the work as well. Scottish Enterprise needs to help bring the yards up to standard, working with BiFab’s owners to deliver the facilities it needs to be globally competitive. The prize is great, because if we can double the domestic content of UK offshore wind farms from a third to two thirds in the next decade, we can realise nearly £3 billion of gross value added for every single gigawatt installed. That is real jobs and livelihoods, if we can capture just a fraction of the benefit for Fife communities.

We need certainty and progress in that pipeline of projects, in both Government support and, critically, planning. I confess that it really pained me to see the legal challenges laid against the outer Firth of Forth wind farms at such a critical point in our energy transition and fight against climate change.

At the same time, we cannot wish away the pressures on protected seabirds and marine mammals. They are real, and European laws are there to defend species that are on the brink of extinction. We need to learn the lessons from the legal challenges, which were initially upheld on issues of process. The disclosure of data and allowing its review early on in the planning process—by all bodies, including non-governmental organisations—is important. Our natural heritage is our shared treasure and its state and health should not be concealed under commercial sensitivity; we must enter into decisions with eyes fully open. The need for that due process must be reflected in whatever environmental governance arrangements we end up with after March.

The future has arrived. Offshore wind has arrived. Let us harness with wisdom and care its tremendous power to transform.

17:30  

I join others in thanking Lewis Macdonald for securing the debate. I also recognise his long-standing interest in and support for not only the offshore wind sector but the whole energy sphere. As others have said, it is important that we have this debate in offshore wind week so that we can restate the support across this chamber for the development of the sector.

As a number of members have already observed, the sector is a success story in terms of meeting our ambitions with regard to the environment and reducing emissions; in terms of our economy and creating jobs and wealth; and in terms of our efforts to combat the scourge of fuel poverty. For all those reasons, it is absolutely appropriate that we should take this opportunity to celebrate that success, which dates back to the time of the Robin Rigg bill—and my time in the Scottish Executive. I well remember Lewis Macdonald’s involvement in that. Interestingly, that process involved pushing back the boundaries of how we regulate in this environment and in a cross-border context.

Since that time, we have seen success story after success story including the Beatrice wind farm and the Vattenfall developments. However, it would be a mistake to suggest that all of that was inevitable. The effort that has gone into achieving those successes should not be undervalued just because of the progress that we have seen. It is right that we acknowledge some of the pioneers of the sector, but they would be the first to admit that the contribution that they have made rested heavily on the people who supported their efforts along the way.

Where do we go from here? It is right that, as Lewis Macdonald suggested, we ensure that we build on that success by being equally ambitious in the future. We can set those ambitious targets for ourselves based on some of what we have seen in relation to the plummeting costs in the sector and its improving competitiveness, and on the innovation that we can see not only in the fixed-bottom developments, but in the floating developments, where, through Hywind Scotland and others, we see Scotland leading the way and playing to our strengths, on which, ultimately, any economic or industrial strategy is best founded.

Our strengths certainly involve our wind resource. As others have observed, 25 per cent of the offshore wind capability in Western Europe is in Scotland. Those strengths also include the skills base that we already have and the academic research that has underpinned the sector. All those elements suggest that the success that we have seen in the past is a success that we can aspire to replicate in the future.

I am conscious that, tomorrow afternoon, we will deal with stage 3 of the Scottish Crown Estate Bill. Lewis Macdonald has already put in a pitch for Crown Estate Scotland to be slightly more supportive in terms of the environment and the role that it has to play with regard to the future success of offshore wind. I make a plea that the offshore sector should demonstrate what it is able to contribute in terms of community benefit for our island and coastal communities.

The aspiration to have something that is subsidy-free puts me in mind of the lunacy of having renewables such as tidal and wave power competing directly with offshore wind for future support. It is absolutely right that we continue to support our offshore wind sector into the next phase of its development. However, I think that we risk choking at birth technologies such as tidal and wave if we put them up in competition with offshore wind.

I congratulate Lewis Macdonald again on securing the debate, enabling it to take place and the Parliament to once again underscore our collective support for the future success of the offshore wind sector.

17:35  

I start by declaring that I am a shareholder in SSE and in the Boyndie Wind Farm Co-op, which is a wind farm close to where I stay.

This is an excellent opportunity—thanks to Lewis Macdonald—to celebrate offshore wind week 2018 and the contribution that offshore wind makes to our economy, employment in local communities and of course the climate change agenda. It was only a couple of years ago that the then President of the French Republic, François Hollande, offered his plea that we work together against climate change:

“The time is past when humankind thought it could selfishly draw on exhaustible resources. We know now the world is not a commodity”.

With Scotland, as we have heard, being the windiest place in Europe, we have something that shows no sign of being an exhaustible resource. The development of offshore wind has been a terrific contribution to the climate change agenda.

I have two wind farms near where I stay. I only have to go a few hundred metres to the east and at night I can look out over the Moray Firth and see the Beatrice wind turbines that were put up as the first offshore wind trial in the area. More significant, though, is the Hywind Scotland offshore development, floating off Peterhead, which has been referred to by a number of members and in the motion. The development is truly groundbreaking, water-breaking technology, and it opens the door to deployment of that technology in shallow coastal areas around the world.

Offshore wind is not particularly new. There has been a wind farm next to the Øresund bridge between Denmark and Sweden for a considerable period. However, the Hywind technology and the technologies that we are seeing developed off our coasts are much higher capacity and have much higher outputs, partly because of developments in China and the use of rare earths in new magnets to increase what can come from ahead.

In the past couple of weeks, I visited a firm in Peterhead called Survitec, which is one of many firms that are developing new technologies. Flashover fires can happen in a matter of seconds, so Survitec has developed a rapid-escape technology for people who are at the top of a wind turbine. I wish the company extremely well—it certainly deserves to get wide market acceptance. However, it will not be alone in exploiting the opportunities that come from having such sources of offshore wind close to some of our communities. Service vessels will go out to service them, and a number of the harbours in my constituency—Fraserburgh, Peterhead and Buckie—look forward to opportunities to service wind farms. I understand that in Caithness, Wick will look to get its share of the business. We will see how that develops, because healthy competition between harbours is not at all a bad thing.

The First Minister visited the Hywind wind farm pilot project, which underlines the potential of Scotland’s huge offshore wind resource. Right at the top of Government it is recognised how important offshore wind is. I wish it well and repeat my thanks to Lewis Macdonald for providing the opportunity to congratulate everyone who is involved in offshore wind and, more to the point, those who will be in the future.

17:39  

I congratulate Lewis Macdonald on securing this members’ business debate slot.

There is agreement across the chamber that global warming and climate change are among the most pressing issues facing humanity. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report makes it clear that the duty to act is shared by all countries. For Scotland, a key component in fulfilling that duty will be to bring our abundant renewables resources to bear.

It is more important than ever that we support the development of renewables in Scotland. Given that Scotland is estimated to have a quarter of the entire European potential, offshore wind must play a leading role. There is no better time to highlight that than this week—offshore wind week—when we celebrate the success of offshore wind and renewables in general. However, it is not just the raw resource that counts in Scotland’s favour. As part of the United Kingdom, we have access to the wider UK energy market, with all the benefit that that brings for future investment and expansion—and expand we have.

It was not long ago—just 15 years, in fact—that planning permission was granted for the first offshore wind farm in the Solway Firth. As today’s motion mentions, since then, the sector has grown rapidly, with a number of projects coming online, including the Hywind Scotland development off Peterhead and Vattenfall’s European offshore wind deployment centre in Aberdeen Bay. Perhaps more impressive yet, when the Kincardine offshore floating wind farm off the coast of Stonehaven is completed, it is expected to be the world’s largest floating wind farm. Those sorts of milestones act as a clear sign of ambition and of the level of success that is being realised in Scottish waters.

There has been expansion across renewables in general in Scotland, with consistent support from the Scottish and UK Governments fuelling a renewables revolution that has led to the proportion of our electricity that is generated from renewables jumping from 38 per cent in 2014 to 68 per cent last year—the highest level in any part of the UK. One way in which we could utilise any excess electricity that is generated would be to construct an electric arc furnace for recycling steel, which could perhaps be accessed from the 471 oil and gas platforms and the 10,000km of pipeline in the North Sea.

We want Scotland to maintain that edge and our word-leading reputation. In addition to there being a solid environmental case, there is a solid economic case that underpins offshore wind. Costs have almost halved in recent years—down from a strike price of more than £100 per MWh to about £57 per MWh—which has made offshore increasingly attractive as an investment and as an economically sustainable energy source.

Now it is time to back the companies, the investors and the workers who will deliver the projects of tomorrow and the economic and environmental benefits that will follow. A key component of that will be ensuring that we have adequate provision of the shallow water and deep water sites that will be needed. As we look to 2030 and beyond, we must keep our sights on the prize of establishing Scotland as a leader in offshore development not just in the UK, but in Europe and across the world.

17:43  

Like other members, I thank Lewis Macdonald for securing the debate, and I welcome the speeches from members across the chamber. We cannot always stand in the chamber and say that we are all united in support of a particular issue or technology, so it is nice to be able to welcome speeches from Alexander Burnett and Maurice Golden for once. Today is a great opportunity.

Each year, offshore wind week, which is hosted by Scottish Renewables and RenewableUK, marks an important series of events in the offshore wind calendar and brings the sector the recognition that it deserves, so it is only right that we have this debate in the chamber. As I said, it is very positive that there is unanimity in our views.

Our commitment to offshore wind is outlined in Scotland’s energy strategy, which was published last December and which sets out a vision for the future of energy in Scotland. In short, the strategy sets two world-leading climate change targets for 2030 with the aims of meeting the equivalent of 50 per cent of Scotland’s heat, transport and electricity energy consumption from renewable sources and of increasing by 30 per cent the productivity of energy use across the Scottish economy. The figure of 68 per cent that Maurice Golden identified has been upgraded—more recent figures confirm that 69 per cent of our energy is generated from renewables, so we have achieved an even higher level than was thought.

We are now setting more ambitious targets through the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill, which Roseanna Cunningham introduced in May. Those targets will ensure that Scotland will be carbon neutral by 2050. Finding renewable and low-carbon solutions will remain one of our key priorities, and we will continue to champion and explore the ability of Scotland’s huge renewable energy resources to meet our electricity needs and contribute to meeting those significant targets.

Last week, WWF reported that, in October, onshore and offshore wind turbines generated the equivalent of the energy needed to meet 98 per cent of Scotland’s electricity demand, or enough to power nearly 5 million homes. Members will understand that Scotland has more than 2 million homes, not 5 million, so we are doing well. On 27 of the 31 days in October, wind power alone met more than 100 per cent of the country’s electricity needs. That is a positive story.

Those figures are testament to how reliable and consistent wind energy technology can be and show why offshore wind will play a vital role in our future energy system, particularly if we can combine it with storage. Lewis Macdonald made a point about that. He will know that Hywind Scotland is linked to the charmingly named Batwind project, which combines battery technology with the offshore turbines at Peterhead.

The UK leads the world in offshore wind, and I would like to think that Scotland plays an important role in that with more than 7GW of operational capacity. As members have said, the sector still has exciting growth potential in Scotland, and we have granted planning permission for more than 4GW of offshore wind development.

David Torrance referred to the work that BiFab is doing; it has contributed to the Beatrice offshore wind site, which is under construction. I understand that 35 of the 84 turbines in that 588MW scheme have been installed. That site is a tremendous success story, and it will provide enough power for 450,000 homes, which shows the scale of the potential that we are talking about.

We are home to the world’s first floating wind farm—the 30MW Hywind Scotland project, which is located off Peterhead. I was pleased to join the First Minister in attending its formal opening, and a number of other members were there to show their support. A second such wind farm—the 50MW Kincardine Offshore Windfarm Ltd site, which is off the coast of Aberdeen—is under construction. I welcome the positive remarks about that project from members from across the chamber, and I welcome Mr Burnett’s motion.

Those projects were made possible because, in 2013, the Scottish Government used its executive power to introduce the enhanced Scottish renewables obligation certificate scheme. That scheme is no longer available to us, but it helped to bring on innovative projects to demonstrate the technology, and we now see the exciting potential for floating offshore wind farms in particular.

In September, I joined the First Minister at the opening of Vattenfall’s European offshore wind deployment centre—I saw Lewis Macdonald there and we had a good catch-up about offshore wind. I add my praise for the work of AREG; Morag McCorkindale is a force of nature, and her team has been really important in the centre’s development. As has been said, the project not only boasts two of the most powerful turbines in the world but has demonstrated innovation in the construction and installation process—the innovative suction bucket jacket foundations at the site were installed in a record time of two hours and 40 minutes, which is a fantastic achievement.

We have supported such projects because we recognise that continuous innovation and cost reduction in the sector will be key to maximising the benefits for Scotland and the wider UK economy. That is why the Scottish Government has committed £2 million in innovation grant funding to offshore wind in this financial year—that funding is split between the Carbon Trust, the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult and the energy skills partnership.

In London last week, I was pleased to help to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the offshore wind accelerator, which has made positive progress. It has made huge strides forward in cost reductions for offshore wind—we have all referred to the downward trajectory, which I congratulate it on.

Marine Scotland is working closely with Crown Estate Scotland to deliver a sectoral marine plan that will guide future leasing rounds for commercial-scale offshore wind sites in Scottish waters. Lewis Macdonald, Liam McArthur and others have referred to that work.

Mark Ruskell spoke about the conservation of seabirds, and we are trying to bring forward a range of shallow and deepwater sites that will allow fixed and floating offshore wind projects to be proposed. We need to do that with respect for the environment, and we are taking feedback from a number of developers about sites that they believe should be in the sectoral marine plan. The aim is to produce something that can be accepted, which will get momentum behind the offshore wind sector’s development.

I am pleased to hear what the minister has said about bringing forward a balance of shallow water and deep water sites. Will that involve a change in the areas of search when the Crown Estate moves on to the next phase, to enable the mix that you described?

I cannot prejudge the final version of the plan, but we are listening to those who are promoting different sites. We must take on board the considerations that Mark Ruskell outlined, such as the impacts on ecology and seabird populations. I would argue that climate change is probably the single biggest threat that those species face, so we have a duty to try to address that, but I am aware that there are concerns about the diversion of seabirds from their feeding routes and we hope to feed back on that. Crown Estate Scotland and Marine Scotland are very much working together on that and are sharing information as they go along.

We continue to engage with the UK Government to ensure that the Scottish supply chain and devolved powers to support the sector are reflected in the offshore wind sector deal proposal. Last week, I met Baroness Brown, who is leading on the sector deal, and I also met the Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth, Claire Perry, to discuss a number of issues. That was a positive meeting at which she stressed her support for offshore floating and fixed-bottom wind farms.

As members have indicated, it is clear that the support mechanisms, such as contracts for difference, need to reflect the additional costs that floating wind farms currently face. We would certainly argue that that would be a positive opportunity. Equinor, which developed the Hywind Scotland site, is taking forward an innovative project in the oil and gas sector in Norwegian waters—it is called project Tampen—that will put 11 offshore floating turbines between two oil and gas fields and will significantly decarbonise the production of oil and gas. That is a good example of how sectors can work together. We are certainly encouraging the offshore wind sector deal team and the oil and gas sector deal team to work together as best they can. This morning, I met Trevor Garlick to discuss that very subject.

Our transition to a low-carbon economy represents one of Scotland’s most significant opportunities for economic and industrial development. As others have said—Stewart Stevenson referred to this—Wick is benefiting significantly from the Beatrice offshore wind site. I am pleased to say that Fraserburgh, having been selected as the operations and maintenance base for the Moray East site, will benefit significantly from that project.

I was delighted to hear today the announcement of a £10 million deal between the Moray East offshore wind farm and Port of Cromarty Firth, which means that a number of storage facilities will be provided by the port over an 18-month contract. That deal is not only a significant milestone in the delivery of the project; the use of the port as a hub during construction will attract high-value jobs and investment to the local area, which I very much welcome. I look forward to seeing the progression of that partnership and the progression of the operations and maintenance contract that was awarded to Fraserburgh harbour by Moray East offshore wind farm, which I announced during a visit there last month.

I am conscious of the time, Presiding Officer.

The oil and gas expertise that has been gained through over 40 years of experience of operating in the North Sea is helping us to overcome the engineering and innovation challenges that are faced in offshore wind in areas such as corrosion and maintenance activities. That expertise is providing the skills that are necessary to transition to the renewables sector.

Given the time constraints, I will get back to Claudia Beamish on the issue of the TTF.

We will continue to work closely with our enterprise agencies and other partners to maximise the economic benefit to the Scottish supply chain from renewable energy development in Scotland. Regular CFD auctions, which were announced by Claire Perry in July—we had pushed for them and I very much welcome them—will provide much-needed visibility that will give supply chain companies the opportunity and confidence to make the strategic investments and meaningful collaborations that are required to compete both within the UK and internationally, as David Torrance said.

This has been a valuable debate. I know that members on all sides of the chamber are focused on ensuring that we maximise the economic opportunity that will arise from the future development of offshore wind. I hope that members are assured that we are already taking the necessary steps to prepare for the future of offshore wind through the scoping work that has been done for the sectoral marine plan, through our actions to drive forward innovation in the sector and through our continuous support for the Scottish supply chain.

The future energy transition will bring many opportunities. I hope that we all agree that Scotland should remain at the forefront of renewable energy including offshore wind.

Meeting closed at 17:53.