February 26, 2010
by Lindsay Brown
In 2009 thousands of jobs ceased to exist in Scotland. Increased unemployment is trouble for any society, but where one door closes, another opens. Scotland is one place on the globe that is atypically packed with a combination of ecological resources which can, and in fact, will engender a compelling renewable energy industry. Policy-makers, scientists, and entrepreneurs are already striding forward to gracefully harness the country’s mighty natural resources, including her wind and waves.
Photo courtesy of REUK
Solar and geothermal forces will also be used to generate economic and environmental benefits for the people of Scotland and for entrepreneurs around the globe, as the shortage of energy is a worldwide dilemma. The ebb and flow of the North Sea tide is just one type of power found off the coast of the Orkney Islands. Scotland has 25% of the estimated total capacity of tidal power in all of the European Union.
“Last year Scotland passed a Climate Change Act which has been lauded around the world as being one of the most progressive pieces of legislation in connection with climate change,“ says Shirley-Anne Somerville, a Member of the Scottish Parliament’s Climate Change Committee.
In correlation with the Climate Change Act, the Economic Recovery Programme strives to create jobs and save households and businesses money all the while remaining green-minded. Up to 16,000 energy-related jobs may be created over the next ten years.
Bringing it home
The people of Edinburgh will not have to travel far to encounter the facilities which will harness natural energy.
To synchronize with upcoming Scottish and European legislation, the City of Edinburgh and Midlothian councils have established the Zero Waste project, which aims to decrease household waste. This spring, it began to look at private contractors’ proposals to build a regenerative waste treatment facility in Midlothian.
“The plant’s construction will start no sooner than 2015, yet it is estimated that 300 jobs in construction will be created at that time, and then an estimated 40 long-term operational jobs will follow,” says Kelly Murphy, the Communications Manager for the project.
In January, the Crown Estate granted rights to SeaGreen Wind Energy, a consortium made up by the companies Airtricity and Fluor, to construct nearly 1000 wind turbines in Moray Firth and the Firth of Forth, off the coast of Fife. The project will create up to 4.7 gigawatts of power, and could create roughly 2000 green jobs in Fife alone by 2020.
From greasy to squeaky clean
A similarly-named company, SeaEnergy Renewables, is expected to partake in the building of a windfarm on the Moray Firth site. The company is a subsidiary of SeaEnergy PLC, which is based in Aberdeen. Formally known as Ramco Energy PLS, the company decided to shift its investments away from oil and gas in order to focus solely on the offshore wind business.
Aberdeen has been nicknamed the ‘energy capital of Europe.’ With a population of roughly 210,000, it has been a central hub for oil exploration and production companies such as Shell, ExxonMobile, Total and British Gas. Until recently, it enjoyed a very strong economy. The non-government organisation, Transform Scotland, warns that world oil supply is nearing its peak, and that after the peak, oil will no longer be reliable as a source of energy. The group continues to urge the Scottish and UK governments to set up greater measures to reduce dependence on oil-fuelled modes of transport.
Calum Cashley, a Parliamentary researcher, explains Scotland’s involvement: “We’re looking at how we develop green alternatives to our oil industry. One of the initiatives that Scotland brought forward is the Saltire prize, which is a 10 million pound prize, to anyone who can bring the best renewable project to the market.”
Aberdeen’s newly-named SeaEnergy PLC is a company ahead of the curve in transitioning to renewable energy. The oil and gas industries have taken on a bad rap over the years. Environmental and wildlife activists have admonished them for their role in damaging the North Sea over the course of nearly 50 years of oil exploitation. Everyday operations have included setting off underwater explosions, dumping drill cuttings onto the sea bed, submerging chemical-coated rigs and pipelines into the sea, and flaring noise and light pollution into wildlife habitats. These offenses are in addition to the occasional accidental catastrophe which claimed human lives, as well.
Holyrood set a pioneering national goal to obtain 31% of its power from renewable resources by 2011. By 2020, Scotland will aim to tap 50% of its gross electricity from green energy. In comparison, the UK as a whole has set their 2020 goal at just 15%.
“Arnold Schwarzenegger said that Scotland is encouraging other nations to step up to the plate,” boasts Cashley.
On Facebook this past winter, a group called “Put a windfarm in my backyard if you like, because I’m not an idiot” grew to almost 40,000 members by February. The group’s description includes a reproach to people who object to the sight of windfarms. It wryly remarks, “Oh no, we don’t want those turbines out there, they make a slight swishing noise which disrupts the sound of the main road and ruins the view of the landfill site.” The emergence of green industries has succeeded in gathering immense public support. Politicians are on board with the people, too, as the Climate Change Act of 2009 was passed unanimously. Clean energy is proving to be an attractive, unifying force for Scotland and beyond.
Magazine feature for Buzz