A “green industrial revolution” could see renewable energy generated in Scotland cut other countries’ reliance on oil and gas from Russia, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader said.
Alex Cole-Hamilton urged ministers in Edinburgh to “maximise” the amount of wind, tidal and even solar power that can be produced, arguing the renewables sector could see Scotland become “the engine that powers Western Europe”.
This would not only help countries across Europe who are “looking to wean themselves off Putin’s supply” of oil and gas in the wake of the conflict in Ukraine, but could also help “hard-hit families struggling with the cost-of-living crisis” here in Scotland.
Many households have already seen the cost of their energy bills soar, with fears Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could see prices rise further.
However, Cole-Hamilton said Scotland was “fortunate that our location and our abundant natural resources mean that we do not rely heavily on imported oil and gas from Russia”, adding that “not all of our European allies are so lucky”.
He stated: “We need a green industrial revolution to maximise the energy we generate from wind, tidal, even solar power.
“The more that we can export, the more we can reduce demand for Russian oil and gas.
“We should be investing in any project which offers a good chance of reducing domestic demand and expanding international supply.
“Not only would that offer a boost to our European allies looking to wean themselves off Putin’s supply, it would help hard-hit families struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.”
The Lib Dem continued: “From our islands which have a track record of being at the forefront of renewable energy innovation to the decades of offshore experience in the north east and the engineering yards of Fife and Glasgow, this is as close to a win-win opportunity as the Scottish Government are ever going to be offered. ”
Scotland needs to develop a “skilled and trained workforce” for this sector, with Cole-Hamilton having recently pressed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon “over why the few renewables jobs we have are having to be filled by workers from abroad”.
He continued: “There is no good reason why Scotland cannot be the engine that powers Western Europe. The only thing that is holding us back is this government’s lack of vision and ambition.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The importance of accelerating the transition to renewable energy sources, including hydrogen, has been brought into sharp relief by recent actions by Russia.
“In Scotland, nearly 100% of our net electricity demand already comes from renewable sources and we are focused on reducing energy demand and accelerating the deployment of renewable energy.”
The spokesman said: “Scotland has among the richest renewable energy producing potential in the whole of Europe – but is unfairly penalised when it comes to the transmission charges applied, giving a direct disincentive to producers and investors.
“We are investing in the transition of our energy sector, including £75m through the Energy Transition Fund, to provide a package that will support our energy sector to transition and grow, supporting jobs and regional growth.
“We are also investing £180m in the Emerging Energy Technology Fund to support innovation in key energy technologies like carbon capture utilisation and storage and hydrogen.”
He also said the ScotWind announcement on offshore wind farms marked a “new era” for the industry, “representing the world’s largest commercial round for floating offshore wind and breaks new ground in putting large-scale floating wind technology on the map at gigawatt scale”.
Speaking about the initiative, the spokesman said: “It will deliver several billion pounds more in rental revenues once projects become operational, to be invested for the benefit of the people of Scotland.
“ScotWind promises to be truly transformational in improving the capacity, capability and development of Scottish supply chains to help power Scotland’s green recovery the length and breadth of the country.”