Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, has urged the UK government to protect the renewable energy sector from potential Brexit impacts and offer further clarifications regarding its effects on the industry.
Speaking at the Scottish Renewables Annual Conference in Edinburgh held today, March 26, 2018 – during a week which marks one year to go until the UK is scheduled to leave the European Union – Sturgeon will urge the UK government to protect the renewable energy sector and to address issues such as free movement of labour and how the sector will be able to access innovation funding in the future.
More than a third of the UK’s renewable energy is produced in Scotland and the renewable and low carbon industry employs almost 50,000 people, according to the figures from Scottish government.
Addressing industry leaders, Sturgeon is expected to say:
“Scotland has internationally recognised research expertise in renewables. We also have incredible renewable resources, and a long history of engineering excellence. Those assets give us the basis for a thriving renewables sector and supply chain.
“Brexit makes this work rather more challenging. If we are taken out of the single market, it will hinder our supply chain and reduce our skills base. If we are outside the internal energy market it could affect our influence on issues such as energy regulation and cross-border energy flows, something which is of increasing importance.
“And, arguably more damaging to our ambitions, we could also lose access to EU funding.
“Scotland has benefited from one of the biggest investments ever made by the European Investment Bank – the £500 million of funding they provided for the Beatrice offshore windfarm. Scotland has also done disproportionately well from EU support for research and innovation in the renewables sector. We want that to continue.
“Although the overall outlook for this sector is hugely positive, we need the UK government to provide clarity on these points. A hard Brexit could potentially cause harm to our supply chain and skills base; our influence on big decisions on issues such as regulation and energy flows; and our access to funding.
“It’s a good example of why arguing for the least damaging approach to Brexit – for continued single market and customs union membership – is a core part of the day to day business of government.
“The Scottish Government’s climate change targets; our energy strategy targets; our commitment to remove the need for new diesel and petrol cars by 2032; all of these provide businesses with a clear direction of travel.
“They show that Scotland is committed to pioneering a low carbon future; and as a result, they mark Scotland out as a centre for low carbon investment.”
The most significant challenges faced by the industry recently have been domestic ones
Responding, Claire Mack, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, said: “The First Minister is right to say that Brexit presents risks to the future success of Scotland’s renewable energy industry, but it’s vital to recognise that the most significant challenges faced by the industry in recent years have been domestic ones.
“While leaving the EU could restrict access to funding and hinder the free movement of labour both to and from Europe, policy support for renewable energy – not least our cheapest and most mature technologies – is essential. Westminster can help to stabilise revenues which underpin investment, and a focus on minimising costs here in Scotland will ensure this is the most competitive place to develop a renewable energy project.
“It is vital that the outcome of the negotiations on Europe have regard for the ways in which industries like renewable energy work: collaboratively, across borders and with cost as a constant imperative.”