Greener Economy Boost for ScotlandNeil Hardie
An expert in green energy has predicted plans to build a greener economy could spark “a new industrial revolution” in Scotland,
Edinburgh University’s Stuart Hazeldine, the world’s first professor of carbon capture and storage said he had never seen “such a flurry and concentration of activity across the whole sector of clean energies”.
But he warned the ultimate success of the campaign will rely heavily on the ability of ministers to convince businesses of a real sea change in the sector, and attract tens of billions of pounds in private investment.
Boris Johnston earlier this month set out his 10-point plan for a “green revolution” to create and support up to 250,000 British jobs but while the proposal was widely welcomed, concerns have been raised about the levels of new funding involved.
“Professor Hazeldine believes the Prime Minister’s plan simply “spreads a thin veneer of ice-cream across a reheated mashed potato of already pledged money” and is more about persuading businesses to invest their own cash,
“In itself, the amount of money being pledged is a drop in the ocean,” he said. “But it’s a political signal from Number 10 they are serious this and progressing down the road, and they are investing government money to do it.
“Particularly with carbon capture and storage, and with other things like subsidies for onshore wind, the industry is very accustomed to the UK Government announcing grand policies and objectives, providing a bit of subsidy and then pulling out as fast as possible, leaving the industry to carry on.
“In some ways that’s the job of government, to get things started, because this is such a giant re-configuring of energy. It’s almost like rediscovering coal or oil.
“It’s that big a transition – and it’s going to take until 2050 and beyond to do it.” The Prime Minister’s plan will “mobilise” £12bn of government money to create skilled green jobs over the next three decades, and hopes to spur more than three times as much in private sector investment by 2030.
It has drawn praise but also questions about the level of detail on the training and re-skilling likely to be required in areas already heavily reliant on carbon jobs.
The jobs issue is something that is being looked at carefully, with officials keen to avoid a repeat of the damage caused by the collapse of the UK’s coal industry.
Scotland’s Just Transmission Commission, an enterprise advising on how to build a net-zero economy, was set up in part to ensure the creation of good-quality jobs for workforces impacted by the switch to clean energy.
One of its key principles is to “Design and deliver low-carbon investment and infrastructure and make all efforts to create decent, fair and high-value work, in a way which does not negatively affect the current workforce”.
Professor Hazeldine believes many of the skills present in the North Sea, such as welding fabrication, project management and planning, could be applied in many of the clean energy industries.
He said: “The government is well aware that in the past the UK has not done very well about looking after its workforce. The obvious example is closing the coalmines overnight, where people were told to go on their bikes and look after themselves. That didn’t work and we’ve still got disadvantaged communities decades after the coal mines were closed – that’s what we’ve got to be careful to avoid.”