Read the UKERC response to the Scottish Government: Draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan consultation

UKERC welcomes the many laudable aims expressed in the draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan (ESJTP). The challenge, of course, lies in meeting those aims.

The vision sets out a dramatic expansion in renewables, notably both onshore and offshore wind. The strategy also states that Scotland will continue to export energy internationally. As the consultation notes, Scotland is a significant net exporter of energy producing around 1160 TWh of primary energy in 2019 with nearly 900 TWh exported to other parts of the UK or other countries. Important economic benefits accrue from that production although more than 90% of it is from fossil fuels and is not sustainable in the long term.

Scotland faces major challenges if it is to retain the economic benefits and jobs Scotland currently enjoys as a result of oil and gas production. We agree that it can and must make use of Scotland’s rich potential for renewable electricity production, and develop and deploy means of capturing the CO2 associated with any continued use of fossil fuels.

The aspiration for Scotland to continue to be a net exporter of energy requires that Scotland and the rest of the UK construct the network infrastructure needed to do so. Lack of network capacity already impedes Scottish renewables output. Irrespective of any changes to electricity network charging, increased availability of energy storage or smart demand, and an expanded electricity transmission infrastructure is essential. Ambitions for hydrogen and CCUS also require entirely new infrastructure to be created.

The vision expressed in respect of the use of energy is compelling, and it has to be, because a wholesale transition of the use of energy away from unabated use of fossil fuels has to be achieved if legislated targets for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction are to be met. Important questions need to be asked about how the demand side transition is to be delivered and paid for. Notwithstanding recent rises in the price of fossil fuels, conversion to low carbon heating, transport and manufacturing industries remains a major challenge. It will also be important to ensure that households and businesses have access to information, and trust in the agencies and companies tasked with delivery, that industries are able to secure the skills that will be needed, and that local supply chains ramp up.

Overall, we welcome the level of ambition signalled in the strategy, and the explicit goal of ensuring that the transition is as equitable as possible. However, we believe that it is important that the challenges inherent in doing this are not understated and that credible, detailed delivery plans are developed and implemented.

In the submission we comment on many of the more detailed proposals laid out in the consultation.