Lewis Macdonald : Offshore Wind Week 2018













20 November 2018

Lewis' Members' Business Debate

Scottish Parliament

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.

The text of Lewis' speech

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.

Elaine Smith (Central Scotland) (Labour):

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?

Lewis Macdonald:

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