Associate feature: Delivering a green recovery
A quick look at Twitter never fails to disappoint in demonstrating how the Highlands and Islands continues to punch above its weight in the transition to net zero.
Another world first in Orkney – combining flow battery technology with tidal energy to produce continuous green hydrogen at EMEC. Orbital Marine Ltd is sharing its expertise in innovative tidal energy devices on the European stage. And Simec Atlantis, alongside Asturfeito, has secured a €1m grant to advance their tidal turbine performance, which is surely good news for the future of MeyGen in the Pentland Firth – the world’s first large- scale tidal array.
And with just a year until COP26 in Glasgow, showcasing our contribution to addressing climate change is very much to the fore in HIE. Our focus is even stronger with such a policy-rich environment on green recovery. We are determined to play a lead role not only in supporting resilience in the short term, but to ensure that the longer-term recovery is firmly rooted in enabling a just and fair transition to net zero.
Scotland’s next generation of offshore wind farms, enabled via Crown Estate Scotland’s ScotWind leasing round, represent an estimated £8bn investment opportunity and potential to deliver more than enough green electricity for every household in Scotland. Equally, they have the potential to be a key economic driver for the Highlands and Islands and Scotland.
Yes, we are very aware of the challenges and the fierce global competition in offshore wind manufacturing, but we remain optimistic for more local jobs and benefits. Early intense collaboration by developers, port owners, and the supply chain, via strong leadership groups such as the Scottish Offshore Wind Energy Council, and overwhelming industry commitment to offshore wind clusters such as DeepWind and Forth and Tay provide very good reason for such optimism.
The opportunities go beyond how we generate our power. How we heat our homes and businesses needs transformational change. The challenge is immense but with the right stimulus, the market will respond. New and diversified businesses will lead on the manufacture, installation and maintenance of new kit, such as heat pumps or hydrogen compatible boilers. Greater energy efficiency in our buildings will reduce overall consumption and costs.
In transport, we are already witnessing a marked increase in electric vehicles (EVs) and associated charging infrastructure. Consumer aspirations combined with continued advances in battery and rapid charging technologies will accelerate this trend. In a mostly rural region with a largely dispersed population and around a hundred inhabited islands, EVs can only be part of the solution so we continue to work with partners to advance low carbon alternatives in air and ferry transport too.
The success in decarbonising energy now must translate to other sectors and, with partner organisations, we will support them on this journey. The diversity of the region and its natural capital presents particular opportunities associated with, for example, peatland restoration, marine biotech, and land management.
So, although we face huge challenges, the focus on net zero and a green recovery will be instrumental in overcoming these. The innovation, commitment and determination witnessed in marine energy is, we believe, replicable and gives us confidence that the region will indeed continue to punch above its weight across all aspects of the transition to an economy based on net zero emissions.
Audrey MacIver is director of energy and low carbon, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE)
This piece was sponsored by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE)