Energy Technologies Institute

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:30 pm on 26th October 2006.

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Photo of Shiona Baird Shiona Baird Green 5:30 pm, 26th October 2006

I thank Richard Baker for securing the debate. Aberdeen has a long and successful record in the energy business, even if much of it has been fundamentally unsustainable. It is surely time to turn that around and to develop energy systems that are fit for the future.

A quick look at Scotland's greenhouse gas statistics shows that energy, in all its forms, accounts for very nearly 90 per cent of our carbon emissions. If we are to achieve the reductions that are needed—some people are talking about reductions of more than 90 per cent over the next three decades—energy must be at the very heart of policy. There needs to be a fundamental shift in the way we generate, distribute and use energy. We need to raise our game and acknowledge that energy policy means more than simply the supply of electricity.

If the energy technologies institute is to go anywhere, Aberdeen is very well placed to be its home, but we need to question whether that is the best use of limited funds for moving towards a low-carbon economy. As my party pointed out in our debate this morning, transport is a significant producer of carbon emissions—it accounts for around 22 per cent of the energy sector's emissions. All along the line, in every sphere of life, in our homes and businesses, we waste more energy than we use. If we could simply cut out the waste, we would be going a long way towards an energy policy fit for the future.

We already know what we need to do and how to do it. We know that if we decentralise the generation of electricity, we can use the waste heat in homes and businesses. Our European partners do that all the time and wonder why we are so backward. We know how to build world-class renewable energy devices, but we cannot get them installed in our own country. We know how to build homes that require no heating or cooling. They are being built in Austria and Germany, where winters are far colder than anything we experience here. In the meantime, our building standards are far weaker than those of our northern European counterparts. We know how to develop fully integrated public transport networks that can cut down our car use radically, but we still have an outdated system and we persist in building houses far away from where people have to work, forcing them into cars on a daily basis. Just what is it that the energy technologies institute will tell us that we do not already know?