Invest Now, Lead the World Tomorrow: The Transformation of the ‘North Sea’ into a ‘Green Sea’

Scotland can turn the North Sea into a “Green Sea” as part of a national effort to become a zero-carbon society and create thousands of new jobs, a new report says today

The paper – ScotlandCan‘s first – sets out three major steps Scotland can and should take to lead the world in cutting emissions, while creating new work opportunities for Scots. 

  • Decarbonise O&G activity in the North Sea – via investment in platform electrification and offshore power integration strategy
  • Take full advantage of North Sea decommissioning activities and exploit the c.£80 billion global market 
  • Take a ‘big bet’ on the next generation of renewables: hydrogen, the ‘fuel of the future’ and carbon capture technology

The report calls on the Scottish and UK Governments to agree a joint strategy which sets out ambitious and clear targets for investment and renewal.  

“A Green North Sea will bring exciting opportunities for Scotland, both in its ability to lead the way towards the renewable focused future and in transforming its economy at home.”

“The time is now to signal our intent – both politically and fiscally – into the future of the North Sea Transition.

“Scotland must collaborate with the UK government to achieve these Green Sea objectives. A divided island will only act to curtail progress and potential – streamlining policy and fiscal funding, with support for Scotland’s industries, will allow Scotland, and the wider UK to benefit.”

It concludes:  “As COP26 comes to Glasgow in November 2021, we have an opportunity to show our true ‘Green leadership’. The world is watching, the opportunity is there, it is now up to our governments to act.” 

The new paper, which has been written in consultation with Scottish energy experts and industry leaders, has been released alongside a report by leading energy expert and former BP executive Nick Butler which argues that “the best is yet to come” in the North Sea if Scotland and the UK cooperate on a joint plan.

We will use the coming two weeks to highlight the opportunities and choices that could be made by Scotland now, both offshore and onshore, to lead the world in carbon reduction. 

Today’s report opposes proposals to end oil and gas activity in the North Sea, warning that such a move would leave the UK short of energy and reliant on emission heavy imports we cannot control or de-carbonise. 

Instead, it supports a managed drawdown of oil and gas activity, combined with rapid investment in a new renewable energy plan for Scotland. 

With oil and gas activity likely to continue well into the 2050s, the report says we should invest in electrifying the rigs network, so they no longer rely on gas for power, and integrating where possible with other offshore power sources such as wind farms. This could cut emissions from the sector by 40% within a decade. 

It calls for the UK and Scottish Governments to power up a new decommissioning strategy, both to service old rigs in the North Sea, and abroad. Capturing decommissioning spend in the North Sea is worth c.£1.5 billion annually, whilst exporting Scottish expertise abroad will help Scotland capture a line share of the £80 billion global spend in the next decade alone.

And for the longer term, the paper says Scotland must catch up in the race to develop carbon-free hydrogen as the energy of the future, and to complement that with a major increase in carbon capture and storage. To support this end use applications utilizing this technology must also be developed.

Eddie Barnes, project manager for ScotlandCan said today: “The opportunities that lie ahead for Scotland in the new economy. Scotland can be a world leader in the new green revolution and show other countries the way in how to transition from dirty energy to a clean future.” 

Evie Robertson, the report’s author said: “The report makes clear that what Scotland needs is an unequivocal commitment from our governments that they are working side by side on a joint strategy for the long-term. Tens of thousands of jobs depend on it, as does our shared wish to become a zero carbon society over the coming years.” 

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