Home   News   Article

NICKY MARR: Race is on for more renewable energy schemes

By Nicky Marr

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!
ILI Hydro Storage exhibition at Dores Village Hall...Picture: Gary Anthony. Image No..
ILI Hydro Storage exhibition at Dores Village Hall...Picture: Gary Anthony. Image No..

I’m looking out of the window at my washing line. Wind and solar power are combining to add freshness to our clothes, with the sun whitening the sheets as they dry.

Tapping into this natural resource has cost me nothing, and global energy supplies have not been diminished by me getting two loads dried as I work.

Scotland has long been a powerhouse for renewable energy. As a kid on Highland family holidays, I learned how the power of water flowing downstream created energy for Scotland’s people. In my seven-year-old head that energy was free; I didn’t consider the costs of infrastructure and maintenance.

Then came the oil boom of the ‘70s. Growing up in Stonehaven I had a front row seat as American kids joined our classes at school, and some friends’ dads started going ‘offshore’ for two weeks at a time, as their holidays got fancier and their cars got bigger. There was a housing boom, with Stonehaven getting new schools and a bypass.

We now know – too late – the damage that extracting and burning fossil fuels has done to our planet. With the Scottish Government’s pledge to get the country to net zero by 2045, the race is on to develop new pumped hydro schemes, bigger, better, and more efficient on and offshore wind farms, tidal energy schemes, and battery storage plants.

Here in the Highlands and Moray, with our extensive coastline, our unique geography, and our reliably wet and windy weather, we should be the powerhouse of the nation.

And it’s looking promising. The award of Green Freeport status to the Inverness and Cromarty Firth area, was a thumbs up to the potential of our area to be world-leading, not just in the generation of renewable energy, but in the design and development of new technologies that could change the face of energy production globally.

MeyGen in the Pentland Firth is the largest planned tidal stream energy plant in the world. Capitalising on the speed of the tides in this treacherous body of water, it began generating electricity in 2018. Crucially, the technology developed here is being exported around the globe.

But who will ultimately benefit from the harnessing and use of our natural resources? The big answer, of course, is that we all will, if climate change targets are met. With the creation of good quality local jobs in engineering, construction, and research and development, that‘s a short to medium-term win for our local economy.

Click here to read more from Nicky Marr

But I’m becoming increasingly worried that we’re sleepwalking into the same trap that the North Sea walked into with oil in the ‘70s. These are our resources, our infrastructure, our workforces, and on our land and coastline. But who will own the profits?

Had Scotland, or indeed the UK, created a Sovereign Wealth Fund when North Sea oil was first extracted, we could, by now, have wealth on a par with Norway or – careful what you wish for – the Saudis.

But instead of siphoning off even a small portion of oil profits for a rainy day, Thatcher chose to add it all into her spending pot, assuming tomorrow would take care of itself.

Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm, one of the largest in the world, is owned by a consortium of companies, including from Denmark and China.

Dorenell Wind Farm near Dufftown is owned by French EDF Renewables, as is Glenmoriston Wind Farm.

Berry Burn Wind Farm near Forres is owned and operated by Statkraft, itself wholly owned by the Norwegian government. Statkraft have just bought (and renamed) the Red John pumped storage hydro scheme on Loch Ness, which hopes to be operational by 2030.

We can’t look back and regret mistakes of the past, because we can’t change what was done. But we should surely learn from those mistakes, and largely be managing and operating these massively important projects ourselves.

If anything is worth investing in as we try to save our planet, it’s our long-term economic future.

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More