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Alex Fergusson (None)
The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-7047, in the name of Stewart Stevenson, on a low-carbon economy for Scotland. Very little time is available in the debate, so I ask members to be strict in their timing.
The Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism (Jim Mather): >I am delighted to have the opportunity to recognise the progress that is being made by the sector and to state my belief that Scotland's renewable energy potential will attract the involvement of other nations, and will generate the industrial, academic and public sector collaboration that is needed to make Scotland the green energy capital of Europe.
It is a good day to do that, given that today we have reset the target for renewables to 80 per cent of consumption by 2020, which is up from the previous target of 50 per cent. That is confirmation that we have a huge multifaceted comparative advantage in the global shift to low carbon.
The investment and job opportunities that are presented by low carbon in Scotland represent the best economic opportunity in recent years. Employment in the low-carbon sector is expected to grow fast: Scottish low-carbon jobs could grow from 70,000 now to 130,000 by 2020, which would represent approximately 5 per cent of the Scottish workforce.
The global low-carbon economy was worth £3 trillion in 2007-08 and is forecast to grow to £4.3 trillion by 2015. That is three times the size of the global aerospace sector. Scotland can expect a disproportionate share, given that we have as much as a quarter of Europe's offshore wind and tidal energy potential and an estimated 10 per cent of its capacity for wave power. Those natural resources are significant enough to enable Scotland to become the continent's green energy powerhouse.
That was reinforced in a valuation of the United Kingdom's offshore renewable energy resource that was published in May 2010 and which estimated that Scotland has 206GW of practical offshore wind, wave and tidal resource. That is almost 40 per cent of the total United Kingdom resource. Harnessing just a third of our offshore renewable energy potential could meet Scotland's electricity needs seven times over by 2050. The net value of that amount of energy, in terms of electricity sales, would be £14 billion by 2050.
Consequently, there are opportunities both for growing indigenous Scottish companies and for
Scotland also has particular strengths in environmental and clean technologies, for instance in building technologies, environmental monitoring and sustainable transport. With 2,500 Scottish companies active in this market, it is estimated that it will grow from £8.5 billion in 2007-08 to around £12 billion by 2015-16.
So, how and with whom do we work to secure our position in the new green economy? The Scottish Parliament has already played a key role through the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, which sets world-leading targets of at least 42 per cent cuts in emissions by 2020 and 80 per cent cuts by 2050.
The legislation also had strong support from business and civic society. As members know, the act provides a framework for business and the public to help Scotland move to a low-carbon future. The responses to our recent consultation—"Towards a Low Carbon Economy for Scotland"—from a wide range of Scottish industry and business confirm that we can expect substantial benefits to accrue from the greening of our economy. Our aim is to be a model of international best practice on climate change.
Jim Mather (Scottish National Party)
The energy efficiency action plan will be published later in the autumn—this autumn. [Laughter.] That plan will constitute part of best practice. The exercise has been thorough, and it will allow us to reinforce the economic case with UK, German and French climate ministers. Persuading the European Union to move unilaterally to a target of 30 per cent emissions cuts by 2020 would speed the delivery of the benefits of a low-carbon economy and collaboration. Therefore, it is no surprise that my colleague Mr Stevenson has come to this debate straight from a briefing for the consular corps in Scotland, in which it was set out how low carbon is boosting economic performance in Scotland and how we can do even more in the future, especially with higher levels of European collaboration. I am delighted to see many diplomatic representatives with us in the Parliament today.
There are other aspects of collaboration. For example, the scale of Scotland's renewables resource requires us to further develop an offshore transmission network grid. The North Sea grid calls for a collaborative approach among countries, regions and member states to develop interconnections into a strategic and co-ordinated grid network. To that end, discussions between Norway and Scotland on possible interconnector projects were very much part of the First Minister's recent visit to Norway.
I am delighted that the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets has listened to the Parliament's calls for changes to the locational charging approach. As members know, that currently results in renewable energy generators in the geographical areas with the best renewable energy resources paying the highest charges for use of the Great Britain grid system. Ofgem's timely review of charges is welcome.
The low-carbon economy that is developing in Scotland will be good for business; companies are already capturing the benefits. Burntisland Fabrications Ltd, which is an established offshore fabrications company based in Fife, is now one of Europe's leading suppliers of support structures for offshore wind turbines, with 370 jobs in Fife and 60 jobs on Lewis. The centre of engineering excellence for renewable energy in Glasgow will create around 250 high-value jobs over the next three years and safeguard 70 more in the city. In addition, Scotland is already an active exporter of low-carbon technologies. They were worth £845 million last year, and they went mainly to China, Spain, Malaysia, India and Romania.
Jim Mather (Scottish National Party)
It is clear that the Cromarty Firth will play an important part in the national renewables infrastructure plan, as it already does. Discussing that plan and ensuring that we have the right options has taken up a considerable amount of my time, but that is nothing compared with the time that Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Highland Council are spending on it, all of which is welcome.
It is clear when we talk about the national renewables infrastructure plan and such things that further investment is needed in the low-carbon economy. The fossil fuel levy surplus, which currently stands at £189 million, must be available to us as an important source of investment for Scotland's growing renewables industry. Consequently, we welcome the new coalition Government's commitment to review the situation as a long overdue step in the right direction.
Meanwhile, we will press on with private sector partners to develop new financing models for low-carbon developments. An example of that work is our partnership work with Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce and Scottish Enterprise on the low-carbon investment project, which aims to attract international investment in low-carbon opportunities throughout Scotland. We are bringing together key players at a major international conference in Edinburgh next week, which will provide a unique forum for the Government, people involved in international finance and utilities, and developers to engage and debate the sharing of risks and rewards of major capital projects in the low-carbon sector. Intellectual capital will be brought to the project by the key conference sponsors, which include Quayle Munro, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Lloyds Banking Group and Clydesdale Bank. I am sure that that will be the start of an open-ended debate that will aid the delivery of investment solutions and maximise Scotland's potential as a leading low-carbon economy.
Just last week, the Spanish power giant and Scottish Power owner Iberdrola announced that it will invest £3 billion in low-carbon technologies in Scotland over the next two years. Therefore, Scotland has the mechanisms in place not just to make the transition to a low-carbon economy a reality for Scotland, but to support that transition across Europe and beyond.
The energy technology partnership, an alliance of our universities, is building a strong education and research base around low-carbon innovation, which will drive the transition to a low-carbon economy even further. For instance, the University of Glasgow has been funded by the European Community for work with Austria, Switzerland and Italy on leading-edge renewables technologies, and Scottish Power Renewables recently announced a £5 million sponsorship alliance that links Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh in carbon capture and storage research.
We have invested £10 million in the saltire prize for marine energy, which is one of the largest-ever innovation prizes and was supported yesterday by another leasing round from the Crown Estate. That is further focusing the world's leading organisations and talent on the commercial deployment of wave and tidal energy in Scotland.
Liam McArthur (Liberal Democrat)
Does the minister accept that there is no credible evidence that any business is likely to bend its investment decisions as a result of the saltire prize and that therefore its value is more as a public relations gimmick than as something that will deliver the results that the Government claims?
Jim Mather (Scottish National Party)
What an intervention; very pessimistic. No, I do not accept that.
We have, moving into the arena, the European Marine Energy Centre Ltd and the Scottish European Green Energy Centre, which has already attracted more than €100 million. Many other key sectors are involved in the wholesale decarbonisation of businesses throughout Scotland, whether that is the food and drink sector, including the notable efforts by the Scotch Whisky Association, or what is happening in the built environment. Last week, I was at Heriot-Watt University to see what is being done to retrofit existing houses. We can see that, coming down the line through measures such as insulation and smart meters, there will be many more jobs and many households will be taken out of fuel poverty.
The evidence is that the current agenda is driving things forward and allowing Scotland to develop a national consensus and a determination to play a full role in developing the technologies, skills and expertise that are needed to build a really material low-carbon economy here. By building on international collaboration and existing relationships, we will position Scotland as the preferred and priority international destination for low-carbon investment.
That the Parliament acknowledges that Scotland is developing a national consensus and determination to play a full role in developing the technologies, skills and expertise to build a low carbon economy; welcomes the job opportunities associated with the further development of low carbon technologies, and notes that the net effect of these and other initiatives has been to position Scotland as a preferred international destination for low carbon investment.
Sarah Boyack (Edinburgh Central) (Lab): >I will highlight the part of our amendment that sets out the key areas in which we believe action is needed. The debate has to be about two things: first, how we make the most of Scotland's fantastic opportunities to produce low-carbon and environmentally friendly heat and power; and secondly, and just as important, how we use that heat and power more wisely.
The process of developing a consensus did not start in 2007. By the time the SNP came to power, we had moved from generating slightly more than 10 per cent of our electricity from renewables up to 30 per cent in 2007. That is a huge achievement. For the past three years, most of the emphasis and a huge amount of discussion has been on the thousands upon thousands of new green jobs that are waiting just round the corner. We have set ambitious carbon reduction targets for 2020 and beyond.
However, it still does not feel as though we have all the basics in place to deliver Scotland's full potential. We should not pretend that we have consensus on absolutely everything when we clearly do not. We need to tease out the issues among ourselves and with people outwith the Parliament. That is a constructive point—we do not all agree on everything, so let us not pretend that we do.
Sarah Boyack (Labour)
No. Let me get into my speech.
I am sure that, across the chamber, we all want to argue for investment to ensure that we have the skills and infrastructure in place to make the most of the fantastic renewables opportunity. The fact that we do not always agree on everything should not cut across that, particularly in the context of next week's Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce conference, which is a fantastic opportunity to attract new investment and to showcase the renewables opportunities in Scotland. We should send a message from the Parliament that we all agree on that point. In advance of that conference, we want to make it absolutely clear that, should there be a Labour-led Scottish Parliament next year, we would be absolutely determined to continue that process and to take it further, particularly in our marine environment.
Our banking and finance sector is crucial to the development of a low-carbon economy. The funding cannot come from the public sector alone. It makes sense for banks, particularly those that are based in Scotland but, I hope, also for banks from abroad, to consider the investment opportunities here. We are not short of such opportunities; we are short of the funding now to ensure that all the opportunities are realised.
The proposed green investment bank, which I think we all support, would sit very well in Edinburgh.
Government needs to set the targets and the standards, but the challenge is to deliver on the practical changes that are required. Yesterday's announcement by Ofgem is very good news. We have long argued that if we are fully to develop our renewables potential, we need to remove financial constraints and provide a level playing field. By necessity, our marine renewables will always be the furthest from market. The challenge is to ensure that, in changing the rules, we do not disadvantage people on low incomes and shift things too far in the opposite direction. A balance will have to be struck.
Yesterday's Crown Estate announcement was also extremely welcome. More can be done to get investors involved; the key challenge is to make that happen.
What distinguishes the Labour Party—this is why we must not have a false consensus—is that our priority is to ensure that social justice sits alongside environmental justice, which is hugely relevant in looking at how we can achieve a low-carbon Scotland. We believe that fuel poverty has to be firmly on the agenda. That is why our amendment talks about the importance of housing and buildings generally. We definitely need to move faster in that area.
The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 set out new policies for improving our building stock, which is a huge source of our emissions. However, the recession has seen a collapse in the rate of new building—just look at the statistics. The challenge is to ensure that we come out of the Salmond slump building new houses, not just in the public sector, but right across the private sector, too.
We do not believe that the Scottish Government is doing enough on new technologies or to ensure that energy efficiency is being driven forward properly. We have debated that before. We do not regard microgeneration and community heat as eco-bling. They are fundamental to a generation of new housing stock and the retrofitting of existing housing stock if we are to have long-term security of supply, houses that are affordable to live in and buildings that are affordable to heat.
The construction industry is absolutely clear in its briefing paper for this debate that it wants to see the gap between ambition and reality closed. We believe that there is too much drift from the Scottish Government. It is not enough just to say that we need investment; it must be made. Procurement presents a fantastic opportunity to drive a low-carbon agenda. We do not think that enough is being done at the moment.
The Scottish Building Federation highlighted the potential for 20,000 new jobs in the construction industry but asked how the skills gap will be addressed. I hope that in his winding-up speech, the minister will give us examples of modern apprenticeships and new college investment to deliver on that.
I am delighted to hear—as, I am sure, is everyone in the chamber—that the energy efficiency strategy will be published this autumn. Let us hope that it will, indeed, be published this autumn, and not next autumn. The fact that it is not out yet is holding back investment and business, because we need a clear message to be sent to every sector of the Scottish economy that energy efficiency is a top priority. Also crucial are the development of energy-efficient heat and the new range of decentralised and localised energy strategies, which must be produced if we are to tackle the issues of wasted energy and affordability.
Much more needs to be done. This week, ministers made an announcement about the duties on public bodies under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. MSPs across the chamber voted for a strong climate change duty, so we are deeply disappointed by what we have ended up being offered. We agree with the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition that this is a big missed opportunity. We think that the SNP Government has watered down the ambition. Why is there no mandatory reporting? There cannot just be warm words; they will not deliver the transition to a low-carbon economy. The public sector is vital to that process, so why is there nothing on the positive role of trade unions, which can play a massive role in the workplace?
Sarah Boyack (Labour)
No. I need to get on—I think that I have nine minutes.
We know that some of the public sector does not have a good reputation or record on procurement, design of services, training and staff travel. That has to be addressed.
Since 2007, the SNP has said that it would not wait until the act was in place before we would see action, but that is unfortunately what has happened. Take the example of low-carbon transport: not enough has been done to support walking and cycling infrastructure and buses are still not fit for purpose in huge areas of Scotland.
Sarah Boyack (Labour)
That explains the problem. Last year is not a good place to start in making comparisons. The minister needs to look at what was done in the first two sessions of this Parliament and to listen to what the cycling lobby is saying, because it is deeply unhappy about the lack of commitment from the SNP Government.
We cannot ignore the fact that this Government has run out of steam on climate change. The new carbon reduction targets that it is putting forward fail to meet its party's manifesto commitment. There is a lot of talk about the 2020 target, but the challenge is not 2020 but what happens this year, next year and the year after that.
I am very disappointed that, in its amendment, the Scottish Green Party is seeking to delete the strong points that we have put forward in our amendment. So, although I agree with much of the sentiment in its amendment, I am also greatly disappointed by it.
We are not prepared to sign up to the Con-Dem proposals on the green deal. I flag up in particular
Sarah Boyack (Labour)
I turn to the Tory amendment. I would be most interested to hear what the Lib Dems and SNP have to say on the issue of nuclear energy—indeed I turned that back on the heckler of a second ago. Labour has always been clear in saying that the SNP is wrong to rule out nuclear as part of the energy mix for the future. We understand that managing waste will always be a key issue, but it is entirely sensible to keep our existing plant open as long as it is safe to do so.
Sarah Boyack (Labour)
I note Chris Huhne's comment this week on the standoff between nuclear and renewables, in which he said that there should be no subsidy for new nuclear power. Labour's priority is for renewables. That is where we have the best potential for development and where all our political support and funding should be targeted. If we are to have a chance of achieving a low-carbon society, it needs to sit alongside energy efficiency across society and our economy.
I move amendment S3M-7047.2, to leave out from first "developing" to end and insert:
"; continuing to develop a national consensus and determination to play a full role in developing the technologies, skills and expertise to build a low-carbon economy; welcomes the job opportunities associated with the further development of low-carbon technologies and acknowledges the need for skills development; notes that the net effect of these and other initiatives has been to position Scotland as a preferred international destination for low-carbon investment, and believes that the Scottish Government should use its powers to the full in support of the development of low-carbon technologies in energy, transport and housing and in the promotion of existing technologies, such as combined heat and power and microgeneration, in order to underpin Scotland's recovery from economic recession."
Jackson Carlaw (West of Scotland) (Con): We live in an age when the fantastical and imaginary worlds of Jules Verne and H G Wells
Let us not be churlish. Despite the fact that the Government has been neither shy nor reticent, it has recognised Scotland's uniquely placed opportunity and has proceeded with vigour and determination. It has had the advantage of being in office as the opportunities arise and it cannot be said that the Government itself discovered the technologies—an impression that we might be invited to gain from some of its more ardent cheerleaders—but so far, so good. Scotland stands ready to be at the centre of this emerging opportunity. I congratulate the minister on the way in which he set out both the huge scale of the opportunity in financial terms and the many ways in which our natural topography, geography and prevailing climate—in all senses—can be harnessed to replicate the economic success that our good fortune with oil delivered previously.
Those opportunities and the potential that arises for Scotland are immense. Even so, we must resist the temptation to suspend belief and embrace every new concept whole-heartedly and without intelligent assessment. Politicians must balance opportunity and risk. The world financial crisis evolved in part because the disciplines that could have helped to prevent it were abandoned. So, too, with our strategy for a carbon economy: we must be intelligently selective and seek to avoid tears and regrets later.
Have we become too target obsessed? In our rush of enthusiasm, we now have not only targets but legally binding ones, at that. The minister is bursting with pride at the latest of these, as he confirmed in his speech, but do we regard targets as some sort of panacea? Do new targets equal job done? Are they the Scottish environmental equivalent of mission accomplished? It already seems obvious that we have embraced ambitious legally binding targets without either a compelling narrative as to how they will be achieved or an appropriate recognition of the limits of our unilateral ability so to do. Indeed, if we obsess over the targets and expend political capital arguing over them—as I fear we are doing—we will detract from the bigger picture, on which we must surely ask: how do we reduce the pollution that is generated in Scotland, whether carbon or whatever? Having targets, even legally binding ones, may have raised three cheers from all those who lobbied us as the legislation progressed through the Parliament, and it may have earned us plaudits from international experts and bodies, but it does not mean that the targets will be met.
At the moment, reductions in carbon emissions in Scotland are being driven by a recession-depressed economy. As the economy recovers, there will be a carbon impact. I am not sure that any of us would accept risking that recovery because of the need to achieve annual carbon targets—well, perhaps one or two would. It is therefore vital that we match all the opportunities that the Government has identified in its motion, including matching them to its transport strategies, which must amount to more than simply telling people that they have to do without their motor vehicles. It is not enough simply to send round squads of the well-intentioned to advise folk on the location of their local bus stop. We need to make travel more efficient and offer rewards. I refer to schemes to encourage widespread car sharing, whether through car clubs or other means, and ideas that I have advanced previously on allowing multiple occupancy vehicles to use bus and taxi lanes and introducing hard-shoulder running on appropriate motorways.
Going forward, our embrace of the new should not be at the expense of practical action. Just last week, we debated Ayrshire Power's proposal to build a wholly new carbon capture and storage coal-powered station at Hunterston—a proposal that lacks public support. Although we appreciate the potential that carbon capture and storage offers and acknowledge the unique topographical and geographical advantage of the North Sea for storage, this is an area in which the rush for the new must be tempered in the face of qualified assertions regarding the practicalities that are involved in making it a success. Such concerns emanate from the industry itself.
The motion illustrates the potential advances in technology that have brought this opportunity on us in something of a rush. If all of it works and Scotland can realise the vision that is presented to us, the potential enormousness of which all of us can begin to imagine, that will be terrific. However, the Wood Mackenzie Ltd report for the Scottish Government in 2009 sets out the bald truth that, with the scheduled closure of Hunterston B and Torness, Scotland will lose a significant volume of low-carbon power, to say nothing of energy security. That is where the Government breaks ranks with many people in the industry.
The amendment in my name seeks to address the issue. Today our nuclear capability is responsible for up to 30 per cent of our energy. It is safe, reliable and low carbon. In my view, it is regrettable that some have chosen to conflate the issues of nuclear power and nuclear weapons and to inject a false argument of morality into our—
Jackson Carlaw (Conservative)
It has proved to be a reliable source of sustained power delivery to Scotland over many years and has a role to play in the future.
We recognise the expertise that Scotland has in the area. The Government should be brave enough to acknowledge that although its motion welcomes the job opportunities that are associated with the new technologies, its repudiation of our nuclear capability, as well as being unwise, quite unnecessarily puts at risk tens of thousands of Scottish jobs. I accept that the whole debate about the rights and wrongs of having nuclear weapons as part of our defence capability is legitimate and of enormous significance, and that it can have a moral dimension. However, what is moral about hoping that the rest of the United Kingdom—or Europe, for that matter—will compensate for our folly if we abandon a nuclear power capability? What is moral about potentially leaving many future generations and elderly people in Scotland without sufficient power?
My amendment does not require the development of an ultimate replacement. In practice, it is probable that EDF Energy's capacity to progress the four new nuclear power stations elsewhere in the United Kingdom cannot accommodate a further new station at this time. There is no immediate need to commission a new nuclear station—that can wait. Of much more immediate concern is an extension of the life of our existing capability.
I confirm that we will support the amendments in the names of Liam McArthur and Sarah Boyack, although I was more impressed with the wording than with the moving of her amendment. However, we will vote against the entirely predictable and charming, if characteristically batty, amendment in the name of Patrick Harvie.
The difference between us is that, for the Government, its motion is the final word, the complete vision and the only way forward. The Government's plan is romantic, is not without vision and is not lacking ambition, but it is in a rush not just to embrace risk but to rely on it. That is an abdication of common sense, duty and our moral responsibility. Scottish Conservatives do not present our amendment as an alternative strategy but as one that is wholly complementary. I urge the chamber to endorse it today.
I move amendment S3M-7047.1, to insert at end:
"; further notes the conclusion of the report, Scotland's Generation Advantage, produced for the Scottish Government, that the scheduled closure of Hunterston B and Torness means that Scotland will lose a significant volume of low-carbon power, and therefore considers that the extension or ultimate replacement of Scotland's nuclear
Liam McArthur (Orkney) (LD): >Earlier the minister accused me of pessimism. I will start by dispelling that notion. If the debate can lay credible claim to having prompted the flurry of announcements yesterday and today, it has already served a useful purpose.
Especially pleasing, as the minister and others have acknowledged, was Ofgem's announcement yesterday that it will undertake a "comprehensive and open" review of the current network charging regime. That is long overdue, although I fully accept—as Lewis Macdonald will point out—that it will not be an easy or straightforward task. Compromises will be necessary, and there are elements of the current system that we would not wish to lose as part of that process, not least to ensure that we maintain our focus on tackling fuel poverty.
However, a system that is specifically designed to incentivise the siting of generation plants close to centres of demand is no longer in keeping with the policy objectives that successive Governments north and south of the border have set. The current locational signals also fail to recognise that much of the natural resource that we need to harness if we are to achieve our emissions reduction, renewables generation and wider climate change targets is to be found in remoter parts of the country and around our coasts, including in my constituency.
Ofgem's announcement also gives further credence to today's claim by Scottish Renewables that Scotland should be revising upwards its 2020 target for renewable electricity generation. I welcome Jim Mather's commitment to extend the target to 80 per cent, although that perhaps kills off Ayrshire Power's plans at Hunterston. The language that Ofgem used in its announcement suggests that it is alive to the new realities. I note that Scottish Renewables credited my colleague Chris Huhne with having taken the lead by providing Ofgem with
"the high-level outcomes that the regime needs to promote."
Liam McArthur (Liberal Democrat)
I have no update, other than to say that we expect an announcement on the matter on 20 October. I am sure that the minister will join me in welcoming the announcement when it is made.
It cannot make sense for a gas and coal plant in the south to be subsidised while renewable generators that operate in Orkney and elsewhere in the north sometimes face prohibitive costs to connect to the grid. The potential costs have derailed projects in my constituency in recent years and it appears that they threaten a development in the Western Isles. I assume that that case cannot await the outcome of Ofgem's review, and I hope that urgent action can and will be taken.
Of course, connection to the grid presupposes the existence of the infrastructure in the first place. Like other members, I welcome the new connect and manage regime, which I hope will remove another potential barrier to the development of renewables. As Scottish Renewables made clear in its briefing, the new regime should
"provide greater certainty for generators about the rules for access to the grid over the long term."
That is extremely important.
The cost of putting in place the new infrastructure that we need will likely be eye-watering: some £50 billion on top of the £200 billion that Ofgem has identified as the cost of securing low-carbon energy supplies in the UK. As industry representatives and others who attended a dinner in Glasgow last night made clear, the funding is available, but competition for the investment is fierce and getting ever fiercer as countries world wide wrestle with the challenges with which we are wrestling. Public finances are likely to be under severe pressure in the coming years, so it is all the more essential that our regulatory environment delivers our public policy objectives in a way that can attract the investment that we need.
Public investment will continue to be essential, so I am delighted that the UK Government has agreed to look again at the release of the fossil fuel levy. I also welcome the UK Government's plans to create a green investment bank, to bring forward private investment in clean energy and green technologies. That has the potential to unlock project finance, by lowering risk to potential investors and addressing market failures and barriers to investment. Sarah Boyack and other members will have views on how such a bank should most effectively intervene and where it should be located, but I think that the proposal enjoys widespread support.
There has been a similarly positive response to UK plans for a green deal, as a means of accelerating the roll-out of vital energy efficiency measures and creating up to 250,000 jobs. Companies will pay up-front to insulate homes and recover their spending from the resulting energy savings. The approach presents an opportunity to
In the years ahead we must do far more to emphasise the potential for job creation across all aspects of the low-carbon economy, whether we are talking about renewables, energy efficiency, waste management, transport, housing or other areas. As Sarah Boyack said, the opportunities are highly significant. The creation of a carbon army, as Dave Watson of Unison continues to call it, will require a focus on supporting skills development. The demand for jobs will be there; we must ensure that the skills are also there if we are to maximise the wealth-creating opportunities of the new economy.
The delivery of green jobs is one of the benefits of the renewable heat initiative, which will help to reduce our dependence on imported fuels, deliver emissions reductions and tackle fuel poverty. I have been making that case to the UK Government, as I expect many members have been doing, and I hope that there will be a positive announcement in that regard on 20 October.
I echo Jackson Carlaw's cautionary remarks about carbon capture and storage, but I will not repeat comments that I made in the members' business debate that Ross Finnie brought earlier this month on Ayrshire Power's plans for Hunterston. However, suggestions that Scottish Power's CCS pilot at Longannet is under threat appear to have been overplayed, perhaps mischievously.
The creation of a low-carbon economy is a question not of if or whether but of how and when. As WWF Scotland said:
"A transition towards a low carbon economy must become a central pillar of Scotland's overall economic strategy."
If we back ambitious objectives with concerted and radical action, the rewards are potentially significant. Failure to take such action will mean that we are faced with the same costs while being short-changed on the jobs and wealth-creation opportunities.
I am pleased to move amendment S3M-7047.3, to insert at end:
"; welcomes the announcement by Ofgem of a review of the charging arrangements for gas and electricity transmission networks and hopes that this will pave the way to removing barriers to the development of Scotland's renewable energy industry, and believes that the UK Government's plans for a Green Investment Bank to fund low-carbon transport and energy schemes and a Green Deal to overhaul the energy efficiency of homes and small businesses will benefit Scotland's efforts to build a low-carbon economy."
Patrick Harvie (Glasgow) (Green): >Before I begin speaking from my prepared notes, I want to welcome what I think was a note of honesty in Sarah Boyack's language about consensus. I have been concerned for some time that we should not descend into self-congratulation simply because we all voted for a piece of legislation when there are clearly fundamental differences among us on some of the important questions of delivery. I think we need to burst the bubble somewhat on our self-congratulatory consensus.
I want to reflect on the long-term development of the agenda. It is not something from the past few years or the past couple of Governments. Some people are beginning to think that climate change and renewable energy are new things, but it is more than 150 years since the basic science was identified, and for most of the time since then there have been people who have called for an urgent political response to the scientific message.
For a long time, those of us calling for that urgent political response were regarded as being on the fringes of politics—perhaps Mr Carlaw would like to think that we are still there—but the agenda is now global. It is at the forefront of the agenda of every Government and major company, and the scientific consensus is far more robust than the political consensus that we have in this chamber. It has taken generations of work, research and activism to get here, but the climate change agenda is now a global priority.
The danger is that, from this point, the agenda turns into just another commercial venture. Scotland has missed out on some of the economic opportunities that the earlier generation of renewable power could have offered us. When I came into Parliament in 2003, the talk of a green jobs strategy—that was the language being used—struggled, and it is still struggling, towards a recognition that the agenda is not just a strategy for X or Y number of green jobs as part of the economy but a jobs strategy for the entire economy that is green.
Even today, the minister Jim Mather talked about how people in low-carbon jobs could represent 5 per cent of the Scottish workforce. That is the wrong approach to a low-carbon economy. That is saying not that we will have a low-carbon economy but that low-carbon industries will be a small part of the economy. That is not an approach that I can welcome.
Liam McArthur (Liberal Democrat)
Does Patrick Harvie accept that, in trying to engage a wider community beyond the already converted, we need at least to address people in a language that they understand and are likely to respond to?
Patrick Harvie (Green)
Absolutely. I am not saying that the intention was wrong or that it was not an honest attempt to address the issues, but the effect of that approach has been to sideline the issue. It is not just a matter of the minister's comments about 5 per cent of the workforce; in a debate on the low-carbon economy, almost every political party is leading with its climate or environment speaker and not with its economic speaker. It is easy for me—I am both—and the other parties do not have that advantage, but it is telling that they are choosing to lead not with their economic spokespeople but with their climate or environment spokespeople.
Patrick Harvie (Green)
The motion is in the name of the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change—and let me talk about transport just for a moment.
A low-carbon economy needs to involve more than just thinking about how we generate electricity. The current Government's economic priorities are clearly emphasised in projects such as the Forth road bridge, the M74 extension—which I am honestly sick of hearing the First Minister crow about—and the Aberdeen western peripheral route. Those transport investments cannot be seen as part of a low-carbon economy. When I challenge the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth on that, he points out that public transport investment is happening too. That is not what we need to see. We cannot have both because, at the end of the day, more of both means more emissions.
Other contradictions mentioned in my amendment include the report that aviation subsidies are coming back on to the agenda—I would very much welcome the minister ruling that out in his closing speech—and the proposal for new coal-fired power-generating capacity at Hunterston. I understand that ministers cannot comment specifically on that now, but their national planning framework opened the door to new coal-fired power stations and they need to take some responsibility for that.
Good expansion of renewables has occurred and much more is to come, but the danger is that we turn that into a bidding war. We need to agree on committing to a wholly renewable future, which includes demand reduction to help to close the gap. That is why I certainly do not agree with Jackson Carlaw's points. He cast nuclear power as energy security, but sharing our energy resources with other countries is where our genuine energy security will come from.
Mr Carlaw likes to regard green politics as "batty" and I have no problem with that—I would worry if he agreed with my speeches, sometimes.
Patrick Harvie (Green)
I do not have time to give way.
Thankfully, Jackson Carlaw is now the one who is putting himself on the fringes of politics, not only with his views on climate science but with the idea that sustainability means continuing what we have done in the past, when we know that we are using up resources that will not be available for the future.
I do not have time to address other points, but I am sure that I will cover them in my closing speech.
I move amendment S3M-7047.4, to leave out from "acknowledges" to end and insert:
"regrets that the cross-party support for the long-term targets in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 has not been followed by consensus on the urgent and radical policy changes that are needed to bring about a low-carbon economy; believes that the Scottish Government should reconsider its support for increased road capacity, growing the aviation industry and building new coal-fired power stations, given the detrimental impact on Scotland's climate change emissions; regrets the lost economic opportunities from the Scottish Government's failure to heed calls for a rapid increase in investment in energy efficiency; calls on the Scottish Government to introduce more substantial support for the marine renewables industry, and believes that a sustainable economic vision should not leave Scotland dependent on the whims of the international money markets, which have failed the country repeatedly in the past, but instead should focus on building resilient low-carbon local economies."
Rob Gibson (Scottish National Party)
I am thankful that I have not been lost—indeed, I think that I have found the answers for much of the development potential in the country. We talk about an economy digging its way out of recession. We know that manufacturing jobs are much stronger than service jobs and that the potential for our country's economic salvation relies greatly on new developments that—however long they have been known about—are coming to fruition in this decade.
We are seeing a low-carbon economy with production targets that were undreamed of five years ago. Our opportunities from the physical nature of Scotland and its place in Europe allow us to see the potential to focus capital and ideas on inward investment by people who are keen to help us to achieve our goals.
Achieving that whole story requires a Government with all the powers that it can muster. We are arguing about getting the fossil fuel levy and about siting a green investment bank here. Those are but small examples of the powers that a Government with all the powers to borrow and to direct the economy would have. The way in which the Norwegians have invested the proceeds from their fossil fuels in the development of future fuels shows what Scotland could do to underpin the renewables surge—the revolution that is taking place as we speak.
People are interested on a European scale. The Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee has heard that energy companies from Germany such as E.ON have leases in the Pentland Firth and many other interests. We have seen Iberdrola's £3 billion potential over the next three years. Huge developments have occurred at a time when the country is said to be only stuttering towards progress.
Scottish Renewables points out that
"over the last three years Scotland's renewable energy sector has declared a new scale of ambition ...
> · Agreements for 10.6GW of offshore wind development > · Commitments to 1.2GW of wave and tidal power in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters > · 1.2 GW of additional potential hydro capacity
> · Proposals for more than 0.5 GW of biomass heat and power".
Lewis Macdonald (Labour)
It is clear that all that Mr Gibson describes is welcome, but does he accept that most of it concerns projections, which are a long way short of becoming even planning applications? We all know that the process of obtaining consent poses the real challenge.
Rob Gibson (Scottish National Party)
On the scale of delivery, my glass is at least a quarter full, whereas Lewis Macdonald's glass is about seven eighths empty. People are working on those projects right now in this country to take us forward to the green energy future that we want.
When we talk about the development of such projects, the skills that are mentioned show that the private sector must commit to considerable investment, too. If the companies that will deliver much of what is wanted are to do so, the Government must send strong and consistent messages about the irreversible drive towards a low-carbon economy. That means that we must not be diverted into some of the old forms of power that the Tory amendment talks about. My biggest fear is that the capital, skills and energy that are going to an all-Scotland approach will be diverted into a replacement for Hunterston nuclear power station if the Tories have anything to do
The 80 pera cent target that we can achieve could be achieved more easily if we reduced the amount of carbon in fuel systems or, indeed, if we sequestered carbon. In each speech that I make I point out that, in peatland restoration, there is huge potential for reducing—
Rob Gibson (Scottish National Party)
No, not at the moment. I am sorry, but I am near the end of my speech.
In peatland restoration, we can achieve huge reductions of an estimated 2.7 million tonnes of CO2equivalent per year in each year ahead. It needs only about £10 million investment to do that. The sums of money are quite small, but finding them, in the current state of cuts, is one of our difficulties with delivering that reduction. However, I hope that, as targets for land management are produced as we come into the Cancún talks, we will recognise that it is easier to achieve an 80 per cent reduction if we reduce energy demand and sequester carbon.
On the construction jobs and skills that we need, we should think about the Scottish housing expo in Inverness, which was a great success. Are the house building standards among the major house builders at the level seen at the expo? Can the Parliament jack up the potential to ensure that none of those house builders is below that level? The construction industry has not caught on to that even half enough yet.
There are too many things to talk about at the moment, but using the full powers of a Parliament would be one of the ways in which we could achieve our ends. We do not have those full powers at the moment and we must not dilute those that we have by diverting attention to nuclear power.
Cathy Peattie (Labour)
Our future is a low-carbon economy. We need it to mitigate climate change; more than that, we cannot continue to plunder finite resources, which are increasingly difficult to extract. Fossil fuels present ever-greater dangers to our fragile environment. Our carbon greed is simply not sustainable.
Our low-carbon future is not in question. The question is how—and how fast—we get there, and whether we seize the initiative and make the most of the opportunities or are dragged there as prisoners of forces that are beyond our control.
Words are not enough. We need lots of action and we need it now. Sadly, we have been slow to adopt the proactive policies and programmes that we need to keep us at the forefront of progress towards a low-carbon economy. Since the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 was passed, there has been a history of missed opportunities.
Cathy Peattie (Labour)
Not at the moment.
We need action to wean ourselves off fossil fuels. Electric vehicles would be a realistic option for many people if we set up a network of charging points, starting in our cities, but our plans to date lack ambition.
We need action to reduce our energy consumption. The built environment is responsible for about half of total carbon emissions and, as the majority of today's buildings will still exist in 2050, they will need to be upgraded. We need to retain and develop construction skills for a low-carbon economy. We need to use energy far more efficiently, through better insulation and more efficient appliances and heating, but energy efficiency programmes are being cut, underfunded or delayed. We also need to do more to support renewable heat schemes, which offer enormous potential for action to meet climate change targets.
As consumers, we can reduce demand by buying more environmentally friendly produce and reducing waste, but pioneering waste reduction programmes, such as the communities reducing excess waste project, are axed without even being evaluated.
Not enough is being done. We need integrated, affordable public transport, but moves to regulate buses are not supported. We need to shift freight off roads and on to rail and sea, but although the Scottish Government recognises the need for such developments, it does not prioritise them.
More could be done to promote green jobs. We need to ensure that education, training and retraining are available to help equip people for the expansion of employment in renewables and, of course, the other sectors that are essential to the growth of the low-carbon economy. We need to anticipate the future needs of the economy, and we must act now to ensure success in the future.
Green jobs go beyond renewables and the low-carbon industry. We need to make other jobs and existing enterprises more green. We must look not only at production processes and modes of transport, but at the localisation of production and distribution. People like buying local produce. More could be done to encourage people to purchase fruit and vegetables that are in season. In addition, we need to ensure that local goods are
Central Government, local government and businesses need to be more proactive. They should look at the scope that exists for action, not only in their own organisations but through interaction with others. Public bodies have a duty to consider what they can do to contribute to climate change action when they look at the consequences and potential of their policies and activities. They should look at the organisations that they deal with and make low-carbon action and training provision part of the procurement process.
Making jobs greener can have an impact on where and how we work. Modern communications give us scope for far more flexibility in many people's working hours and location. They mean that people can work from home, they enable hot desking in offices and, when travel is necessary, they can help people to avoid rush hours and congestion. That can be a win-win situation, in which employee and employer benefit and carbon emissions are reduced.
Another thing that is essential is a public engagement strategy. We must build the level of awareness, understanding and involvement that is needed to move us rapidly and successfully towards a low-carbon future.
I do not pretend that bringing about such a major change in our economy will be easy, but it will not happen unless we decide on and prioritise action to make it happen. Nor will it be easy to achieve a fundamental shift in attitudes and lifestyles, but the Scottish Government needs to set an example, grasp the thistle and get on with it.
Stuart McMillan (West of Scotland) (SNP): >I suppose that it would have been inevitable if today's debate had developed along the normal party-political lines, but I have been fairly surprised that it has not been too partisan up to now, even if some party-political points have been made. I certainly hope that whatever comes out of the debate and in whichever direction we go in the future, the expectations of all the parties and of the population are met so that Scotland fully benefits from the additional low-carbon economy opportunity that exists.
We have already heard about some of the work that is under way, such as the numerous action plans, the Saltire prize and the zero waste strategy, but there are other things that can play a part in helping our environment and our economy. Today's announcement about raising the target for the generation of electricity from renewables to 80
There are two areas in which I am convinced that action will assist Scotland. For me, they are two big-ticket items—I know that my colleague Rob Gibson said that one of them was not a big-ticket item, but I am afraid that I will have to disagree with him on that. The first is the fossil fuel levy and the second is the transmission charging regime.
A few months ago, the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee published its report on delivering on Scotland's energy future. As has been discussed in previous debates, the committee was divided on the nuclear issue—that was not a surprise—but its members were together on the fossil fuel levy and transmission charges.
It is important to remind members of exactly what was in the report. Paragraph 128, on the fossil fuel levy, stated:
"The Committee calls on the Scottish Government and the UK Government to work constructively together to see if a way can be found that will release the funds held by Ofgem in its fossil fuel levy account in a manner which will not impact on the Scottish Consolidated Fund."
Paragraph 121, on transmission charges, stated:
"The Committee is disturbed at the evidence received in relation to the current and planned charging and access regimes to the transmission networks",
and went on to say:
"The Committee supports the calls from the Scottish Government and the various energy utilities in Scotland for Ofgem and others to substantially rethink their planned charges."
Since our report was published there has been a change of Government in London, and I am sure that my Labour colleagues on the committee are probably even more comfortable with the report now than they were then. However, my Conservative and Lib Dem colleagues might be having second thoughts about what we put in it.
Liam McArthur (Liberal Democrat)
My recollection is that the UK Government has picked up and responded very positively to those two recommendations since the committee's report—which I agree was excellent—was published.
Stuart McMillan (Scottish National Party)
There is still an element of delay, as I am sure the member will agree, so we will see what happens in the future.
We are where we are, and I hope that the fossil fuel levy issue can be sorted out sooner rather than later. Much has been made of the UK Government's respect agenda and its attitude
The committee's second recommendation centres on transmission charges. Ofgem announced yesterday that it has launched a review of gas and electricity charges, and the SNP welcomes that as an opportunity to end the discriminatory transmission charging system that results in Scottish electricity generators paying the highest grid charges in the UK.
The SNP has for years been pressing Ofgem to move away from the current charging model. We strongly dispute the assertion that it has served the energy industry well, as there have been serious concerns about its impact on renewable generation. However, I am pleased that Ofgem finally accepts that the present regime is not suitable for the encouragement of low-carbon renewable generation, given that generators have little option with regard to where they can site such developments.
I am conscious of time, so I will touch only briefly on the area of energy efficiency, which I discussed with a few members in the Parliament last night. There are two areas that we must work on: the energy efficiency of commercial and business premises, and the energy efficiency of domestic properties. I will deal with the issue of commercial properties, as time is limited.
I feel that there is a massive opportunity for retrofitting the aircraft hangar-type supermarkets that are sprouting up across the whole of Scotland and, with regard to building regulations, I hope that local authorities can consider placing stricter conditions on applications to build them.
Jamie McGrigor (Conservative)
I am pleased to take part in today's debate, and I remain of the strong opinion that my region of the Highlands and Islands, with its unrivalled wind, wave, hydro and tidal resources, can lead the way for Scotland as we seek to develop a low-carbon economy.
As we have heard today, Scotland has 25 per cent of Europe's offshore power and 25 per cent of Europe's tidal power potential. It is estimated that 21.5GW of commercial capacity is available from the waters around Scotland, and there is particular potential around the northern isles and the Pentland Firth. The Crown Estate has received a
I emphasise that the Scottish Conservatives genuinely believe that there need be no conflict between a low-carbon economy and a growing economy. Indeed, the development of low-carbon technology has the potential to drive the economy, especially in my resource-rich region. A decarbonised Scotland can be a world leader in green technology, engineering, innovation and, therefore, growth.
In the Highlands and Islands, we already have good examples of how we are leading the way in such innovation. The world's largest tidal power turbine—the AK1000 by Atlantis—was unveiled earlier this summer at Orkney's excellent European Marine Energy Centre. The turbine is capable of generating power for more than 1,000 homes, so we wish it every success. That is the result of 10 years of hard work and has the potential to realise some of the aspirations for tidal power that we have talked about for so many years. In addition, in the fast-flowing Kyle Rhea narrows off Skye, Pulse Energy is undertaking a one-year study of a tidal device that sits on the sea bed and is not visible on the surface of the sea. That has huge potential.
In Shetland, the promoting Unst renewable energy—PURE—project is gaining global recognition for its groundbreaking work in hydrogen technology. The PURE team designed Britain's first licensed hydrogen fuel cell car and is now seeking to commercialise its work so that it can further develop its hydrogen-based projects. Twelve miles east of Helmsdale, in waters more than 40m deep, Talisman Energy's Beatrice wind farm demonstrator project includes two of the world's largest wind turbines as part of a pilot study that will end next year. In Stornoway, good work is also taking place at Lews Castle College, which is part of the UHI Millennium Institute. Earlier this year, I was pleased to be able to tour those facilities, where I met many of the talented individuals involved.
In addition, planning consent has just been granted for the largest hydroelectric project in Scotland for five years, at Kildermorie near Ardross in Ross-shire. That project will power more than 4,000 homes. I remain very supportive of the role that small-scale hydro schemes can play.
The Scottish Conservatives' approach to energy that Jackson Carlaw set out is something that all members with common sense should agree with. Our future energy needs must be met from a
SNP members are, I regret to say, simply in denial if they think otherwise. At the Industrial and Power Association dinner last night, I listened to Lord George Foulkes confess his conversion to nuclear power. Having been a minister and a member of the energy review advisory group, he said—
Jamie McGrigor (Conservative)
Lord Foulkes said that he had gone from being an anti-nuclear protester to being convinced that nuclear energy was the only way that we could keep a decent energy mix in this country. He argued very strongly for nuclear power.
I will take the minister's intervention.
Stewart Stevenson (Scottish National Party)
My intervention is on purely a technical point. I understand that last night's dinner was under Chatham House rules, so it would be improper to attribute views to any named individual. It is not often that I defend George Foulkes, but I think that I am right on that point.
Jamie McGrigor (Conservative)
Yesterday, I had a very useful meeting with ConstructionSkills, which aims to ensure that Scotland's construction industry can respond effectively to the low-carbon agenda with suitably trained individuals and that the supply side can deliver the skills that are required. That sector skills council expressed serious concerns about the cuts in funding to construction courses that could seriously affect the available infrastructure to deliver on that. ConstructionSkills is also looking at developing specialist qualifications to provide the specific civil engineering skills in the marine environment. That is to be commended.
The way in which we transmit our energy must also change and advance, which I am pleased to say is a priority for the coalition Government at Westminster. Mainly post-war technology transmits electricity across dumb networks, which
Alasdair Morgan (Scottish National Party)
No, the member has made his point very well.
Ms Wendy Alexander (Paisley North) (Lab): >I begin with an apology for my lateness. I got caught up in the leaders' photo call, which is what the media describe as a rare display of unity. There has been a fair degree of unity in the chamber this afternoon. However, in echoing Patrick Harvie's remarks, I think that unity can also bring risks if it leads us to not reflect on some of the more difficult issues that we face.
I want to dwell on the hopes of the climate change campaigners who fought for the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, through which we collectively committed to an 80 per cent reduction in emissions, and it would make sense to debate where we are against that statutory commitment. If someone had wanted to find that out, they would not have done so from the letter that was sent this week to Patrick Harvie, the convener of the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee. They would not have found out in time to lodge an amendment for today's debate. They would have had to go on to a website late last night—there was no press release and no fanfare—to discover that our target for CO>>2> reductions is 0.5 per cent for next year and 0.3 per cent for the year after that.
Stewart Stevenson: Does the member recognise that we have made the target 2 million tonnes more challenging by creating a target of more than 3 per cent for 2010?
Ms Alexander: I do, but I contrast our statutory responsibility and our willingness to debate that with the high-profile first ministerial airtime that was today given to the welcome announcement that we are raising our renewable electricity target to 80 per cent. Not putting the 0.5 per cent and 0.3 per cent targets for the next two years into the motion has led to a less focused debate than the one that we needed and should have had. The truth is that none of us is in a position to grandstand about aiming for a 0.5 per cent target
If some people think that that is a pedant's point, I will explain how which targets we highlight and when gives me so much concern. In the very detailed letter to Patrick Harvie about what will happen next, we discover that we will not have the plan for how we will deliver that 80 per cent reduction in emissions until budget day—the delivery plan will be published on the same day as the budget. I invite Parliament to reflect on the wisdom of the Government explaining how it will deliver on the flagship piece of legislation for the entire Parliament on the same day that, by its own admission, we will be facing some of the worst cuts since the second world war. Climate change delivery plans should not be unveiled on budget day. It will inevitably lead people to believe—rightly—that the Government is reluctant to make its case in public when it comes to the hard choices rather than the easy ones.
I have here a copy of the independent budget review, which suggests that the Government's figure for the cost of delivery on the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 is £8 billion or more. The IBR at least compelled a public estimate of the costs that are involved, but no costs of any kind are given in today's motion.
I invite the minister, in responding to the debate, to reflect on the wisdom of holding back how we will deliver on the flagship piece of legislation for the entire Parliament until the day on which we deal with the worst cuts that the Parliament has ever faced and the worst cuts that the country has faced in, perhaps, half a century. I fully accept that Mr Stevenson cannot change that decision today; I simply invite him to take the matter back to colleagues to reflect on it and decide whether estimates of the scale of £8 billion should be shared and placed in the public domain on a different timetable to the budget.
I will end with something much closer to home. In a week's time, on 1 October, the new building standards will come into effect. Normally, the construction sector has six months' advance notice of the new rules, which are known as the accredited construction details. That is obviously so that the industry can be ready to incorporate them into designs. However, I understand that, with less than seven days to go, Mr Stevenson has still not published those accredited construction details. I therefore invite the minister, in summing up, to explain why the new-build standards have not yet been published, although there is less than a week to go, and why the energy software was so late.
Stewart Stevenson: They were published months ago.
Ms Alexander: If the minister can confirm that there has been no delay whatever in the publication of the accredited construction details, that will be helpful to the industry, which has made representations on the issue.
Christopher Harvie (Mid Scotland and Fife) (SNP): >Since 1800, when the Charlotte Dundas travelled by steam along the Forth and Clyde canal, we have lived in Patrick Geddes's technopolis, generating power by burning carbon. Longannet power station burns 4.5 million tonnes of coal a year and produces 9.6 million tonnes of CO2. That has led to climate change, with all its consequences. We are experiencing 70 per cent more wet days in summer now than we did in 1900—a fact that was brought forcibly home to us this morning. To move to a low-carbon policy, against the deadline of peak oil, we must focus on four key areas: technology, labour, markets and what could be called political ecology.
Jim Mather has dealt with wind and water power, but there is capacity for 1.5 billion tonnes of CO2—largely from the thermal power stations of northern Europe—to be buried in the central North Sea and pumped into the sea bed to squeeze out more gas and oil. However, 50 per cent of our energy goes on space heating. Some members may have seen "Grand Designs" on Channel 4 last night, which showed the UK's first totally passive house. It got its certificate from the newly created Scottish Passive House Centre in Rosyth, Fife, which I believe Stewart Stevenson will open shortly. A passive house consumes 30 gallons of fuel per 80m2annually; the average new-build in the UK consumes about 10 times that amount—double the amount that is consumed by a new-build in Europe and barely reaching a C in the EU's scale of thermal efficiency.
We are good at research. Countries such as Germany look to us because we have a huge marine area, whereas Germany has only the Wattenmeer, to the west of Jutland—which, members may know from "The Riddle of the Sands" is dry land for much of the time—and no tides at all on the Baltic side. Such countries look to us for research, but we must look to ourselves to bridge the gap between the laboratory and the product.
That brings me to labour. In "Towards a Low Carbon Economy for Scotland: Discussion Paper", which was published in March, the Scottish Government says that it expects a further 26,000 jobs to be created in low-carbon technologies by 2020. That is excellent, but they will have to be
Christopher Harvie (Scottish National Party)
It is certainly the case that we need to look at what is going on in Europe and, in particular, our partners in these industries. Voith, for example, is very keen to establish here because of the quality of our research in this area.
We can bridge the gap with Open University-style tuition—indeed, we are in advance in those areas of technology—and overcome Thatcher's economic use of the oil boom. In a book that I wrote 17 years ago called "Fool's Gold"—unfortunately, another book with the same title has been published since then, which shows that we have not learned very much in the interim—I quote Sir Alastair Morton, the former head of the British National Oil Corporation and a Labour appointee, but certainly no socialist, who, when asked what Mrs Thatcher had done with North Sea oil, memorably responded:
"She blew it on the dole".
We can do this only with European partners, who, it has to be said, are much more reliable than a London coalition whose dramas already make "Fear and Loathing in the Labour Party" look like the proverbial vicarage tea party.
What of markets, then? They are predominantly in Europe, not in the backward-looking nuclear-oriented UK. The ministers mention tide, current and the great swells of the Atlantic but all that has to be backed up with efficient infrastructure not a railway system that seems to break down every weekend; a Zeebrugge ferry route that, alas, is closing down in December; or a road-based freight system that—God knows how—has to face peak oil in possibly less than 10 years.
Voith, Europe's largest turbine producer, is fascinated by the fact that many Scottish lochs and hydrostations can be used as pump storage schemes; in other words, they could be turned into a sort of huge battery that would regularise wind and wave power. We have—
Iain Smith (Liberal Democrat)
I am very pleased to speak in the debate, not least because I have just come back from the Liberal Democrat conference in Liverpool, where I had an opportunity to discuss many of these issues with Liberal Democrat ministers in Cabinet positions and elsewhere who will be able to implement across the UK the types of green policies that for many years now we have been trying to implement in Scotland. That development is greatly to be welcomed.
I am somewhat surprised that the debate has not focused more on renewable heat and energy efficiency. I know that Sarah Boyack raised the issue, but I am surprised that Patrick Harvie's amendment makes no mention of renewable heat. It is a strange omission.
The fact is that renewable heat is crucial. Although heat accounts for 50 per cent of our energy consumption, almost none of our energy debates has ever focused on the issue. The Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee certainly highlighted it in its energy inquiry, the report of which was published last year. We are still not doing enough to drive the agenda forward and I hope that when he sums up the minister can inform the chamber of even more progress on the development of the renewable heat action plan and tell us what more is being done to develop combined heat and power plants.
Iain Smith (Liberal Democrat)
I was happy to discuss that issue with Chris Huhne, who I can assure the minister is keen on ensuring that renewable heat is a key part of the Government's energy action plan for the future. I am sure that positive announcements will follow in due course from the comprehensive spending review.
On energy efficiency, one of the committee's key recommendations in its energy inquiry report was:
"The Committee reaffirms its call on the Scottish Government for a rapid publication of its detailed energy efficiency action plan. Delay beyond 2009 is not acceptable."
In its immediate response, the Government said it would publish its
"draft Energy Efficiency Action Plan ... in the early autumn ."
A later response informed us that the consultation on the action plan would close in January 2010, responses would be published in March 2010 and the final action plan would be published in spring 2010.
We are now being told that the action plan will be published not in spring 2010, which is long past, but this autumn. The Government had told us that the action plan would be published last autumn, but there we go. What is the current excuse? In its most recent response to the committee, the Government said that the action plan has not yet been published because,
"In view of the recent establishment of a short-life Working Group to consider over the summer the appropriate levels for annual emissions targets, it has been decided that it would not be appropriate to publish the Energy Efficiency Action Plan until the emissions targets have been established and a new Order has been laid before Parliament."
How on earth are the levels for the emission targets the reason behind the energy efficiency action plan? Surely the energy efficiency action plan should be about doing everything that we can to improve energy efficiency in Scotland; it should be driving emissions targets rather than being driven by them. Surely we should not wait to see whether the emissions targets mean that we can do as little as possible to meet them; we should be trying to do everything that we can to improve energy efficiency. The action plan should have been published not months but years ago and we should be driving forward the agenda on energy. If we are going to have a low-carbon economy, it is vital that we sort out energy efficiency.
Stuart McMillan raised the issue of building regulations. In passing the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, we made strong recommendations on energy performance certificates for non-domestic buildings. That is in the Government's hands: it can take action now to require stronger action in commercial buildings, in respect of both new build and the retrofitting of existing buildings. It is not for local authorities but for the Government, through building regulations and energy performance certificate rules, to drive that agenda forward. I hope that it will continue to do so.
Carbon capture and storage has also been mentioned. It is important that we continue to keep the pressure up in relation to support for the CCS project at Longannet. Again, I think that there will be a positive response from the UK Government if we can keep that case going, but we have to ensure that that happens.
I echo the concerns that have been raised about the Hunterston project. The Hunterston project is in the national planning framework as a project that will be carbon-capture ready, although it does
The Saltire prize has been mentioned. It is a very interesting prize, as it will not even be delivered in the next session of Parliament; it has now drifted on to 2017. I think that it is one of those prizes that will go further and further away and will never be seen. It is not driving the development of wave and tidal power in our seas; it is an ego trip, which is doing nothing to help. The Government should admit that the prize will never be delivered and that it will never be given to anybody. Let us get on with spending the money on the investment that we need in our wave and tidal schemes.
Presiding Officer, there is a great deal more that I could talk about, but I know from the clock that you would tell me not to, so I will sit down.
David Whitton (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (Lab): >I welcome the opportunity to participate in the debate and to support Labour's amendment. I offer my apologies to the minister for missing his opening remarks; I am always sorry to miss a speech by Mr Mather. It now looks like he is walking out on mine, but never mind.
There have been notable success stories in the low-carbon economy; indeed, only this week it was announced that some renewable energy apprenticeships could be made available in Scotland if wind farm plans are approved. The Adam Smith College and Carbon Free Developments Ltd confirmed the deal—a UK first—that will establish the renewable energy apprenticeship scheme. It is expected that there will be at least 150 placements with renewable energy-related firms operating in Fife—around six per year over the 25 years that the wind farms will operate. Add to that the commitment of Carnegie College and the tie-up with renewables giant Siemens and a trend is developing. Rather than competing, colleges and companies are working together to further Fife's ambition to become Scotland's leading hub for renewables training while dealing with the skills gap and providing existing and potential employers with a local talent pool.
This might be the first time in the history of the UK renewables industry that community benefits have been delivered in the form of long-term apprenticeship training, and the scheme might be the first to use a commercial project to enhance a specific region's ability to attract investment.
However, it will not be the last such scheme. Skills and jobs must be part of the procurement process for all areas. There might well be a small number of jobs for Fife, but they are surely a step in the right direction. Next week, Edinburgh will host an international low-carbon conference, which will, I hope, help innovative projects, technologies and companies to access finance and funding.
Massive potential economic benefits could arise from identifying low-carbon projects in and around Scotland, the clustering of projects to a scale that is attractive to investors, assisting projects to develop clear and robust business plans for greater investment success, and supporting the growth of indigenous companies to help them to form part of the supply chain and commercialise towards global markets. However, without skills, all that effort could be wasted. Mr Salmond will no doubt stand up next week and say that Scotland is uniquely positioned to exploit the opportunities that are presented by the global commitment to renewable energy and low-carbon technology; indeed, he and his Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism, Mr Mather, have said that many times already. No one disagrees that we have some of the best natural resources in the world for harnessing green energy from our wave, water and wind potential, and we have a history of technology innovation and engineering expertise that is second to none. However, we need to make Scotland attractive for people by offering the skills, research and development and qualified staff they might require. Christopher Harvie would no doubt agree with me on that.
There are opportunities and challenges in the renewables arena, and we need to deal with both. Scotland has set one of Europe's most ambitious carbon reduction targets, and, according to the SNP, £140 billion of investment is planned on projects and developments that will realise its carbon reduction programme. It is welcome news that companies such as Iberdrola want to invest here. Why not? We might have around a quarter of Europe's tidal and offshore wind capacity and 10 per cent of its potential in wave power, as well as significant opportunities in hydro power, onshore wind power and biomass but, as I have argued before, a skills strategy must go hand in hand with a development strategy. That might be something that we could learn from the Germans.
Is there not an immediate need for sustained investment in the construction industry in the short term? Is it not the case that a loss of capacity will have a particularly damaging effect on low-carbon industries in view of the significant requirements that those industries will have for the construction of new infrastructure? A person does not need to be a brilliant economist to imagine that inflated construction costs could hamper the competitiveness of Scotland's low-carbon
There is some good news. The latest labour market intelligence report from ConstructionSkills projects an increase in Scotland's construction industry workforce of around 20,000 between now and 2013. Many of those new jobs are expected to come from the drive to reduce carbon emissions. The ConstructionSkills report states:
"For Scotland, employment will be driven by work in two sectors, housing and infrastructure ... at the moment it is difficult to judge how these will shape up in the legacy of the banking crisis. However meeting greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets will mean implementation of low carbon building standards along with a programme of improving energy efficiency of existing buildings."
We need to look for different ways of working. SELECT, which is Scotland's trade association for the electrical, electronics and communications systems industry, is taking a significant stake in the future with the establishment of the Scottish environmental technologies training centre just outside Edinburgh. Upskilling can be as important as new jobs. The training environment that is facilitated by the heating business Vaillant and Skills Development Scotland will bring electricians, heating engineers and plumbers up to date with the latest developments in energy-saving technology.
The SNP Government makes big claims about the number of jobs that could be created through low-carbon technologies. I seriously hope that it is right, but we need to see more effort from it to turn optimism into reality.
There is a SWOT—strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats—analysis of Scotland's current position in "Towards a Low Carbon Economy for Scotland: Discussion Paper". The paper says:
"Scotland is a relatively small country: we have the ability to make things happen quickly."
That is listed among our strengths.
Patrick Harvie (Green)
Sometimes in the chamber, I come across a wee bit more confrontational than I mean to. Although I sometimes have a lot of fun while I am doing that, it is not always helpful. In the debate on this agenda, there are individuals from across the political spectrum whose ideas I can agree with. The only problem is that those ideas are too often mixed up with a lot of the stuff that I disagree with. Again, that applies right across the spectrum.
I will start with some things that I agree with. Rob Gibson clearly set out the SNP's anti-nuclear stance. He talked about the tremendous opportunity cost. We all recognise the potential benefits of renewables if we can get the investment, but the capital investment that is required is huge, and should be the priority. Even if nuclear energy did not have all the other associated problems—those problems still exist—it would be at the bottom of a long list of priorities for investment.
Liam McArthur mentioned a few policies that I support. The UK Government's idea of a green investment bank is good. It is small, but it is a good idea—but allied with the dramatic attacks on public spending that will come from the UK Government, I am not sure who will be in a position to, as his amendment says,
"build a low-carbon economy",
or to build very much else at all.
I turn to Iain Smith. Now I might get a wee bit more confrontational again—sorry. He seemed to want my amendment to be even longer and to include more things. Maybe it should have done but, when I first wrote it, it would have filled half the page, so something had to give. I hope I made it clear in my earlier speech that the point that I am driving at is that a low-carbon economy topic, debate, strategy or plan must be about the whole economy and not just a list of energy policies.
Iain Smith said that he is positive that, in the comprehensive spending review, we will get the decision that we want on the fossil fuel levy. I hope so, because there will not be much else to look forward to in the comprehensive spending review. I am not sure whether Iain Smith and Liam McArthur currently identify themselves as being on the pro-capitalist or anti-capitalist wing of their party but, either way, what is coming down the line from the UK Government is an extremely right-wing agenda of which we should be very cautious.
Throughout the debate we have heard comments such as that about the need
"to maximise the wealth-creating opportunities"
from renewables, as though that should be the overriding objective in energy policy. I cannot
One of the familiar energy clichés is about keeping the lights on. Can we keep the lights on just with renewables? Do we need nuclear to keep the lights on? Part of the problem is that we keep far too many of them on for far too much of the time, even when we are not using them. Jim Tolson, who is down at the front, is right to point to the lights in the chamber—I beg your pardon, it is Jim Hume.
Patrick Harvie (Green)
The lights are on and fortunately, today, someone is home.
No Government, at UK or Scotland level, has ever been serious about demand reduction. Investment in reducing our energy demand lags way behind the wildly expensive high-carbon and polluting developments that just happen to offer the tantalising prospect of some GDP growth and so get the investment. Building standards make progress in baby steps towards the kind of homes and buildings that have been put up on the continent for years—decades even—for fear of upsetting the volume house builders, it seems. Opportunities are lost through minimal and badly run insulation programmes.
We must get beyond our current approach to counting our emissions. Next year, the Government is required to start reporting on consumption-based targets. The parallel of that in energy terms would be to look at fossil fuel extraction. Can a country that rapidly expands opencast coal extraction be considered low carbon? Is that part of a low-carbon economy? Regardless of where the coal is burned, I would say no.
Can a country that allows deep-water drilling to exploit new oilfields—again to boost GDP—be called low carbon? I do not think so. There are proposals for drilling at depths of more than 4,000ft, which is almost as deep as the Deepwater Horizon rig drilled, which caused a leak of millions of barrels into the Gulf of Mexico in recent months. Instead of apparently staying fairly quiet on that subject, the Scottish Government should be examining the economic risks to Scotland of a disaster of that kind if deep-water drilling goes ahead off Shetland or the consequences of a moratorium on deep-water drilling.
We have opportunities on finance, but there is far more that the UK Government can do even now, rather than just chase foreign investment. We are currently using export credit guarantees to
Jim Hume (Liberal Democrat)
I welcome the opportunity to sum up in this useful debate.
There is no doubt that the threat of climate change is real and requires immediate action. One has only to look at the severity of our most recent winter to see the impact that extreme weather can have on our businesses and society.
The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 was a welcome initial step of which we should rightly feel proud, because it shows our intent to contribute to the international fight against climate change. To that end, I welcome the improved annual emissions targets that the Government published yesterday, following consistent pressure from the Liberal Democrats, although there was some resistance from other parties. It is imperative that we have an established framework for achieving our 2020 targets to ensure that continuous progress is made.
Although it is only proper to view climate change as the threat that it is, the path to achieving a low-carbon economy need not be painful. We should be mindful of the opportunities and possibilities that it presents for reshaping our economy and the enormous potential for job creation.
WWF Scotland has stated that a third of emissions in Scotland result from home energy use, which is a significant contribution to our annual emissions total—a point that Iain Smith made well. An effective way to tackle such emissions on our way to decarbonising is by encouraging householders to modernise their homes to make them more energy efficient.
Liam McArthur mentioned the Lib Dem coalition Government's green deal, which is to be applauded. It is ambitious in seeking to have millions of householders take up the offer of up-front finance to insulate their homes, the savings made from energy bills being used to pay for the improvements. Not only would that help tackle the problem of home-energy-use emissions; it would establish a sector that the coalition Government expects to provide 246,000 jobs by 2030.
Of course, if Scotland is to work towards a low-carbon economy, it is essential that we have a population with the skills, training and education required to drive it. Both Cathy Peattie and David Whitton mentioned skills. That is where outstanding organisations such as the Crichton Carbon Centre in Dumfries have a real part to
"Our expert team is working to tackle the challenge of climate change by encouraging and supporting behaviour changes at individual, business and community levels."
I am sure that members across the chamber will welcome such forward thinking from an organisation that is still in its infancy. However, we should not rely on charities and other organisations to do the work of the Government.
The Scottish Government's discussion paper on moving towards a low-carbon economy states:
"Key to the success of a low carbon economy will be equipping learners with the additional skills that they need in the usage and application of environmental solution and technologies."
I agree. A step in the right direction would be—my colleague Tavish Scott highlighted this to the First Minister a fortnight ago—to ensure the future of the wind turbine technician course at Carnegie College in Dunfermline, which David Whitton mentioned. One might suspect that such a qualification would prove competitive over the next few years in our march towards decarbonising our economy. It would be a terrible shame if such a course and the skills that it teaches and develops were lost to Wales or Yorkshire.
Sarah Boyack and Cathy Peattie mentioned local procurement, which I have also pushed for some time, particularly local food procurement. The benefits of such a move would also help in our efforts to tackle climate change. According to Friends of the Earth, 25 per cent of Scotland's greenhouse gases result from food production. I note the recent Scottish Government consultation document "Public Bodies Climate Change Duties" and welcome its draft guidance on how public bodies can play their part by sourcing food locally.
Many local authorities are making commendable efforts to source their food locally, but others have a long way to go. The successful example of the Fife diet shows that we can source food virtually on our doorsteps and, in so doing, make a significant contribution to cutting emissions. What harm can there be in boosting and sustaining an industry that plays such an important role in our economy?
By educating and training our population, encouraging better procurement practices in our public bodies and insulating our homes in a massive programme to boost jobs, as Iain Smith mentioned, we not only tackle climate change and move Scotland to a low-carbon economy but
We have had an interesting debate. Jackson Carlaw mentioned schemes for reducing car usage, albeit that the suggestion conflicts somewhat with his past life. I am glad that Sarah Boyack welcomes the Liberal Democrat announcement on the green investment bank. Stuart McMillan was slightly out of touch in criticising the lack of work between UK and Scottish ministers. Indeed, Fiona Hyslop mentioned the great work that Stewart Stevenson and Chris Huhne have been doing on that very subject.
Gavin Brown (Conservative)
We have had a wide-ranging and useful debate this afternoon, with some good contributions from all parts of the chamber.
As a Conservative member of the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee, I feel duty bound to respond to Stuart McMillan's remarks on transmission charging and the fossil fuel levy. As we heard from a number of members including Liam McArthur, Ofgem announced yesterday a comprehensive and open review into transmission charging. That is a hugely positive step. I think that all sides of the chamber called for and wanted such a review. Although there was not complete consensus in our debate of just a couple of months ago on the outcome, there was broad consensus that the current system is not fit for purpose. The reason for that is simple: when the system was designed, cutting carbon emissions was not central to the public policy platform. Policy at that time was all about price and security of supply, in the context of which building power stations close to centres of population made sense. Given the policy of cutting carbon emissions, the previous policy no longer makes sense. The comprehensive review is therefore absolutely right. My view is that we have a good Government in the coalition Government. I also have every faith in David Cameron as Prime Minister, but even I did not expect that—even with his skills—the entire system would be changed within four months of his taking office. The matter is hugely complex and the fact that we already have an announcement is to be welcomed.
Jim Mather (Scottish National Party)
Does the member concede that the work that the Government did in support of the UK Government in bringing National Grid, Ofgem, the generators, academia, renewables interests and others around the table may well have played a constructive part in this, too?
Gavin Brown (Conservative)
I view it not as a concession but as a matter of fact. Every member of the
I differ slightly from the minister on his view that there ought to be no locational element whatever in transmission charging; I take the view that the situation is a bit more complex than that. I do not agree 100 per cent with the minister, but the current system is not fit for purpose and the consultation is definitely to be welcomed.
When the Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism spoke, I raised with him the issue of energy efficiency, on which many speakers have touched. Reducing demand and making our houses, buildings, schools and so on more energy efficient is a much less painful way of cutting our carbon emissions, but the energy efficiency action plan—or inaction plan, as it now appears to be called—is disappointing. The plan has been years in the making. When the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee considered the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill back in January last year, it took the view, based on evidence from a number of groups, that there was no need to take six months from the legislation coming into force to produce the plan—the work had been done and was ready to go, and the plan could be published and acted on immediately. Even at that time, we felt that we were moving a bit too slowly, as we did not have the plan.
We have heard that the plan was on the books and ready to be published in May this year, but at the last minute—for whatever reason—the Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism took the decision not to publish it. Now we hear that it will be published in the autumn; the minister felt obliged to add the phrase "this year", just to make matters clear. I ask him in all seriousness, if the plan was ready to go in May 2010, as the Government says, can it not be published today or tomorrow? We accept that changes may be made to it as matters progress, but what is preventing the Government from publishing it now, with the caveat that it may be subject to change? I ask the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change to tell us in his summing up why that cannot be done.
Electricity generation, which produces about a third of our carbon emissions, has been discussed. My colleague Jackson Carlaw gave a good speech on the subject of nuclear power. He asked how much carbon would be saved in total by getting rid of nuclear power generation at Hunterston and Torness and replacing it solely with renewable energy. I would love to hear the Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism answer that question, because I believe that the amount would not be great. I urge the Government to listen to its Council of Economic Advisers and to
"With Hunterston B and Torness removed, Scotland will lose a significant volume of low-carbon power."
The minister should judge the reliability of a technology over the 30 or 40-year lifespan of a power station, not just on the year 2006, which he is fond of citing. That will give him a fair analysis of how productive the technology is.
Lewis Macdonald (Aberdeen Central) (Lab): >Today's debate has confirmed that there is wide agreement about objectives, but less agreement about the means of achieving them. There are real questions about how to make the actions deliver on the words.
Targets are essential in meeting the challenge of climate change—that is why Labour pressed so hard for us to set demanding targets for emissions reductions and why we will continue to argue that Government needs to provide leadership in drawing the route map of how to meet them.
Renewable energy is a case in point. As we have heard, Scottish ministers take every opportunity to highlight their enthusiasm for new energy technologies. However, in practice, they have not taken every opportunity to endorse projects on the ground. After nearly four years, in spite of the warm words, it remains the case that nearly 40 per cent of the potential electricity generation from new onshore wind developments that have gone to ministers for decision since 2007 have not progressed because ministers have chosen not to give consent. It is not enough to say that we have huge renewables potential while avoiding the hard questions about how we will realise that. Not every renewables project that comes forward must gain consent, but it is important that the balance is right. If 40 per cent of our overall renewables potential were to be rejected in planning, our aspirations for a low-carbon economy would not be achieved.
Offshore wind should be the next big thing in renewable power. There are major opportunities for Scotland in the demonstration and deployment of offshore wind generation, in the transfer of skills, expertise and technologies from offshore oil and gas to offshore renewables, in fabrication and in the supply chain. Those opportunities must not be lost. If SNP ministers have found it hard to endorse projects of scale onshore in Lewis, Aberdeenshire and Perthshire, how much harder will they find some of the challenges in relation to the marine environment?
Rob Gibson (Scottish National Party)
If the Labour Party had been in power at the time, would it have given the go-ahead to the Lewis wind farm proposal, given the
Lewis Macdonald (Labour)
I strongly suspect that we would not have ruled out consideration of the social and economic benefits of the proposal before they had been properly considered, on the basis of the Natura designation, as the minister decided to do. I do not want to debate every application. I simply want to say that the Government must show willingness to deliver consents in practice, to go along with its warm words.
It is essential that we take opportunities to join up our existing offshore energy sectors with the new ones that are developing. The marine environment is a tough place to grow the low-carbon economy, and the further we go from shore the tougher it will be. Labour's amendment highlights the importance of skills. There is an opportunity to use existing training bodies, such as the oil and gas academy—OPITO—and the expertise of the offshore division of the Health and Safety Executive, to ensure that people who go to work in offshore wind or marine energy industries are protected in the way that offshore oil workers have been protected since the tragedy on Piper Alpha.
The grid is the other issue that most urgently needs to be addressed. Renewables Scotland highlighted the matter this morning when it published research that identifies potential generation and potential barriers to success. As Sarah Boyack said, we welcome Ofgem's announcement that it intends to review the transmission charging regime in the context of enabling additional grid and meeting climate change targets. However, we recognise that the way in which consumers pay for grid upgrading through the current charging regime is not the one-way street that the regime's critics sometimes suggest it is. Specific elements of the current regime protect Scottish consumers and spread the cost of supply across the whole of Great Britain's customer base. For example, there is the hydro benefit replacement scheme, which has been in place for six years. Such elements of advantage to Scottish consumers must not be lost.
Ofgem's project transmit will be wide ranging and will consider transmission and charging regimes as a whole, which is particularly welcome. I urge ministers to approach the review as advocates and champions of consumers as well as producers of electricity.
We must acknowledge that if there are to be real cuts in carbon emissions from transport, we might need more development of electricity to provide the power for the electric cars that we want. As Cathy Peattie said, a new national grid of
In planning our future energy mix, ministers must not lose touch with the realities of our current power mix and how we can get from here to where we want to be. That is not just about ever-increasing amounts of renewable energy, welcome though that will be. Governments must also seek a diverse and balanced portfolio of energy sources. That is currently missing from the Scottish Government's plans.
We all recognise the potential of carbon capture and storage, but we need to acknowledge that the technology has not yet been proved at scale in the commercial context. If it is proved, we certainly want Scotland to be in a position to take the lead. However, we must acknowledge that at this stage in the development of CCS technology it is a mistake to rule out nuclear power, even if the prospect of new nuclear developments in Scotland are currently remote, as Jackson Carlaw said. Iberdrola's plans for major investment in low-carbon energy in Scotland depend on Longannet succeeding in the UK competition for CCS. That is not a given; much will depend on the success of the first demonstration project at scale.
Investment is at the heart of many issues that have been raised in the debate. There is broad agreement that investment in ports and infrastructure will require public funding. We heard that the UK Government will review the fossil fuel levy. It would be useful to hear from Scottish ministers how they will proceed if the review does not produce the additional funding for which they hope. Will ports investment be a priority, with or without the additional funding?
Investment will be essential if we are to capture the surplus heat that is produced in power generation, whether it is from existing or new power technologies. I, too, look forward to the Scottish Government's energy efficiency action plan, and I will watch for the arrival of autumn, when the plan will apparently appear. Perhaps autumn will indeed start tomorrow, when the first leaf falls. In a written answer to me this week, Mr Mather told me that the plan would include material on district heating, highlighting the opportunities that exist. I hope that he will take the opportunity to build on the example of combined heat and power in Aberdeen—an example that has been followed by central Government in Westminster but not here in the past three years.
On buildings and energy efficiency, I seek clarification on one specific point. New building standards come into effect on 1 October. Have the accredited construction details—ACDs—for energy been published yet, as the minister
Achieving a low-carbon economy is a work in progress, and the pace of progress in uneven. This debate has highlighted some of the things that still need to be done. I believe that the Scottish Government needs to do more, and more quickly, if all the ambitious targets are to be met, and we all need to recognise that hard choices will need to be made along the road.
Stewart Stevenson (Scottish National Party)
I thank all members who have contributed to the debate.
We have demonstrated today that Scotland's vast potential in renewable energy puts us in position to be the green energy capital of Europe, and it gives us a huge comparative advantage in the global shift to low carbon. Scotland is positioning itself as the preferred international destination for low-carbon investment, giving our business base a competitive advantage, making Scotland a destination of choice for overseas business, and benefiting the wider Scottish economy and our communities.
Let me say at the outset that the Government will be able to support the Liberal and Labour amendments. They address matters that we also wish to address.
I turn now to the contributions in the debate. In an intervention on my colleague Mr Mather, Liam McArthur somewhat derided the saltire prize. The initiative engages some 400 million people across the world through a partnership with the National Geographic Society that has also seen international companies expressing significant interest in Scotland. Anything of that character raises the profile of the issue because there is an enhancement effect that transcends the simple presentation of a £10 million prize. I do not share Liam McArthur's gloom; I am a perennial optimist.
Sarah Boyack said that we do not agree on everything. That is true; the fact that we continue to have tension between different ideas and points of view is fundamental to democracy. It is about challenge and developing new, good ideas. However, the interesting thing has been the degree of agreement throughout the debate. I am almost tempted to say that, in a sense, renewable energy is now a new orthodoxy because that is the way that the debate has gone.
The green investment bank is an important initiative, whatever the scale of the finance that will be available to it, because it is a different approach to finance. With its great experience in
Unless I missed something, there was absolute unanimity in the welcome for the review of the network charging regime, albeit that a number of proper points were made about what must be in the review and how we must respond to it.
I am delighted that the public duty is now out. Mandatory reporting might be in tension with the spirit of partnership that we have with local government and many other bodies.
I think that I picked up from Lewis Macdonald that the Labour Party will vote for the extension or replacement of nuclear power capability, which I suspect will come as a great disappointment to many supporters and MSPs of that party.
Jackson Carlaw said that targets are less important than action. That is of course true, but targets inform action. Setting challenging targets on renewable electricity generation has been a significant driver for the success that has been delivered. The raising of the targets, which my colleague the First Minister announced at 12 o'clock, reflects the role that targets can have.
Jackson Carlaw talked about more efficient use of cars, car sharing and bus lanes. All those measures are worth considering. He also referred to Wood Mackenzie's report. It is worth saying that that report pointed to Scotland's comparative advantage lying in renewables and carbon capture and not in nuclear power, for which the intellectual property lies elsewhere, as the name EDF—Electricité de France—gives away. The nuclear power jobs are probably more of the order of 2,000 than the 10,000 that Jackson Carlaw suggested.
Liam McArthur was right to highlight the competition for money. We will need significant investment from the private and public sectors to deliver on our renewables potential. However, Scotland is a compelling proposition. Next week's conference will be key in drawing people who understand finance to Edinburgh, to engage with the comity of Edinburgh.
In his closing speech, Patrick Harvie drew attention to the fact that he is a consensual politician from time to time, and I respect that. He said that there is consensus in climate change science but not in the politics, which is probably a fair comment.
We must not miss out on the opportunity for green jobs this time round. To be frank, we must look across the North Sea at how Norway has used the previous generation of energy opportunities to build a fund that is leveraging
Lewis Macdonald made an intervention on planning. It is worth making the point that we have approved 43 consents—more than twice the number the previous Administration approved. This Administration is delivering on consents.
Rob Gibson returned to the issue of peatland, which will be an important part of the debate at Cancún, where we hope that peatland will be included in the calculations on climate change. As he said, for an investment of £10 million, we can save 2.7 million tonnes of CO>>2>, so restoring our peatland to the carbon sink that it should be has huge potential.
I will paraphrase Cathy Peattie—she said, "Not whether, but how and when." There is no disagreement on that—that is important. I share her aspiration to continue to take freight off our roads and on to rail, our canals, our seas and our lochs. Initiatives under the Government's watch that have taken hundreds of lorries a week off the A9 up to Inverness are an example of what can be done. When I opened Raasay pier, I visited JST Services, which is extracting timber off Raasay by sea. We are supporting, and wish to continue to support, such initiatives.
Flexible working at home is an excellent idea, but its impact is complex. Heating many houses involves a lot more heating than does heating a single communal facility, but we save on transport. However, we should certainly continue to consider the idea.
Jamie McGrigor said that no conflict exists between a renewables economy and a growing economy. That is one reason why the economy will succeed. [Interruption.]
Stewart Stevenson (Scottish National Party)
Wendy Alexander wants us to ignore budgets, but the delivery plan must be drawn up in the context of budgets and it will be done on that basis.
Scotland can demonstrate the economic benefits of acting on climate change and we are spreading that message widely. As Jim Mather said earlier, I was at a briefing for the consular corps in Scotland—I was delighted that a number of those people were able to be with us for the start of the debate—at which we set out how our low-carbon approach is boosting economic performance in Scotland and how we can do even more.
Acting on climate change will offer considerable economic opportunities. Scotland will become the