2019 was not a normal year for the energy sector, not only in the Highlands and Islands but throughout the United Kingdom, with many important milestones worth considering.
The Scottish Government launched the £ 10 million Saltire Tidal Energy Fund in February to enable commercial tidal energy generation deployment in Scottish waters.
The fund’s first grant to the Scottish firm Orbital Marine Power in August was £ 3.4 million, to produce the next generation O2 2MW floating tidal energy turbine. This is being designed in Dundee, using Liberty steel in Motherwell. It will be installed at the Orkney European Marine Energy Centre and will be able to power over 1700 homes.
Meanwhile, the UK ran for a fortnight in May without using coal to generate electricity, the longest coal-free run since 1882 in the region. Also that month, the record for solar power was broken with 25 percent of UK power coming straight from the sun on one day.
Offshore wind saw a tremendous boost in March, with the sector deal released. Highlights include plans to increase UK content to 60 percent by 2030. At HIE, we are eager to support this through initiatives such as O4B Highlands and Islands, run by the Chamber of Commerce Inverness.
The deal also commits the industry to raise women’s representation in offshore wind to at least one-third by 2030 and to deploy capacity up to 30GW by the same time limit.
The forthcoming leasing round of Crown Estate Scotland will support this, with more than 9GW capacity up for grabs in Scottish waters, significantly around the coastline of the Highlands and Islands.
Such goals are the most ambitious in the world and the entire population needs a huge amount of effort and action. Energy will clearly play an important role, particularly in finding ways to decarbonize our heat and transport industries.
September was an ups and downs month. The declaration that Glasgow will host COP26 in November 2020 came first; a global climate change summit at a turning point in our future, possibly.
And came out the details of the Contract for Difference (CfD). Of the 6GW for offshore and remote wind capacity on the island, Scottish ventures provided just 1GW. Moray West and Viking were amongst those absent. The Viking failure cast doubt on the viability of Shetland’s insular communication links. The same can be said of the Western Isles who were unable to secure a CfD following the Lewis projects.
On a more positive note, December saw the Scottish Green Energy Awards, a highlight in the calendar for renewables, celebrating sector successes and achievements.
The winners included the Beatrice project (judges ‘ award), the Green Marine in Orkney (exceptional service award), the CREE project on Canna (best community project), and Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands (exceptional contribution award).