The climate change plan update, published in December, sets out several measures to support innovation and encourage new technologies and ideas. That includes £180 million for a new emerging energy technologies fund, which will support the development of Scottish hydrogen and carbon capture and storage industries, as well as new negative emissions technologies.
Innovation happens at the community level, too. Last week, I was delighted to announce support of £3.2 million this year for more than 270 projects through the community climate asset fund, which provides new and innovative ways for communities across Scotland to contribute to the national endeavour.
We have seen many successful community energy projects, which have not only provided people with improved energy efficiency options but helped to regenerate communities. What assistance can the Scottish Government give to community groups that are keen to take a proactive role in achieving Scotland’s zero carbon goal through community-led renewable energy projects?
I have already mentioned the community climate asset fund. The Scottish Government also continues to support the growth of community and renewable energy through its community and renewable energy scheme. Since its inception, CARES has made available more than £51 million to support more than 600 community and locally owned renewable energy projects across Scotland. That is helping communities to play a part in the transition to net zero. The next iteration of CARES, which is due to commence on 1 April, will focus on decarbonisation—particularly heat decarbonisation—and driving community-led activity.
Throughout the development process for offshore wind farms in Scottish waters, the Scottish Government manages a delicate balance between delivering our net zero commitment and protecting Scotland’s diverse and precious marine environment. Strategic environmental assessments ensure that environmental issues are taken into account at the planning stage, and habitats regulations appraisals are undertaken to determine whether a plan or project will have an adverse effect on the integrity of a protected area.
Following that, at the application stage, developers must submit an environmental report identifying potential impacts on marine life, which is subject to rigorous consultation with environmental stakeholders. Ministers are required to consider those impacts when making their determination. Should consent be granted, it is subject to conditions mitigating and monitoring the effects on the environment where necessary, maintaining the important balance between the need to produce clean green energy and protecting our natural environment.
It is estimated that there are more than 100,000 tonnes of unexploded munitions in British waters, and many of them will be at Scottish sites that are earmarked for offshore wind farm development. As the Scottish Environment LINK orca species champion, I am concerned about the impact on cetaceans of clearing munitions. Detonations and explosions can displace animals and cause permanent hearing loss, and fish breeding grounds can be impacted.
I have had correspondence with the cabinet secretary about low-order deflagration, which is a new disposal technology. What progress has been made on the introduction of a policy change to make use of such technology to protect marine life?
I thank Beatrice Wishart for mentioning her correspondence with the cabinet secretary in the autumn. As she will know, should an unexploded ordnance require detonation, a European protected species licence would be required from Marine Scotland. Compared with other methods of UXO disposal, deflagration has the potential to significantly reduce acoustic impacts.
However, for a change in policy to require that technique to be used, such methods must be proven to be commercially viable. We await consideration of that. We are happy to continue to correspond with Beatrice Wishart on those important matters.