The energy and low carbon sectors in Scotland support hundreds of thousands of jobs and generated £45.7bn in turnover for Scotland in 2015. For the Highlands and Islands, the transition to a carbon neutral economy represents a very significant economic, social and industrial opportunity. Our oil and gas industry will continue to play a key role in supplying energy, but will also afford the skills and expertise to support our transition to a highly productive, carbon neutral future. Low carbon and renewable energy are both fast-growing areas of opportunity and significant contributors to Scotland’s economy. A sustainable and successful energy sector in the H&I will underpin wider regional economic growth.
Oil and gas activity has long been a contributor to the economy of the Highlands and Islands, and businesses and institutions based in the region have a successful track record in the sector that extends over 40 years. Strategic proximity to key projects/assets in the Northern North Sea and Atlantic Frontier, lower cost bases and a culture of innovation are all contributing to the region playing a critical role in securing the long-term future of the UKCS and increasing Scotland’s oil and gas exports to 60% of total activity by 2020.
Companies and communities in the HIE area are already demonstrating the ability and ambition to be recognised as low carbon and ultimately carbon neutral exemplars. HIE, as a public sector organisation with extensive networks that reach across the globe, can help accelerate these ambitions and build on the existing capability by facilitating the transition to a circular economy.
The Highlands and Islands region is home to some of Europe’s best resources and is internationally recognised for the advancement of offshore renewable technologies, not least due to the unique offering of the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC). The region is also an exemplar in local, low carbon energy systems built upon a sustained focus on community ownership and revenue generation from renewable deployment.
Significant employment and business opportunities remain in the current and future build out of large scale offshore wind projects in the Moray Firth, and in continued development, testing and demonstration of marine technologies, including at array scale.
Reflecting the changing UK and Scottish Government policy landscape, there will be an increasing focus on demand reduction and decentralised, low carbon energy systems providing increased opportunities for innovation in supply and demand-side activities, and wider dispersal of benefits throughout communities.