Scotland has huge potential in terms of renewable energy off our shores – with an estimated 25 per cent of all the European offshore wind and 10 per cent of the potential wave power.
The challenge is to ensure that we have a ready supply chain and the skills to take full advantage of this. It isn’t just about technical skills and knowledge, important though these are. It is also about firing up the next generation with the energy and enthusiasm that will maximise the economic benefits to Scotland.
It requires a change of mindset so that we see sustainability as a core educational principle. The search for sources of energy that are renewable and inflict as little harm on the ecosystem as possible will have profound consequences for the generation currently going through school.
In the Sustainable Learning Partnership, we have been working closely with the Crown Estate to develop a project for secondary schools called Clean Energy from the Seas. We are piloting this in Orkney, which is to be at the centre of the world’s first commercial-scale wave and tidal energy programme. Some pupils have already designed working wave energy devices. If it is successful, the Crown Estate plans to roll this project out more widely.
The project focuses on renewable sources of energy from the sea – particularly wave and tidal power – and offshore wind power. We begin by introducing pupils to the key issues of climate change and sustainability. We focus both on the science of sustainability and energy sources and on the social implications of current ecological threats.
To meet the social and economic realities of the 21st century, young people need to acquire more sophisticated high-level skills and ways of thinking, including how to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances, such as those presented by climate change.
At the technological frontier, substantial numbers of scientists, engineers and other innovators are needed. But so is a wider citizenship with the skills to contribute positively to, and benefit from, the successful transition to a low-carbon economy.
• Keir Bloomer is a member of the Sustainable Learning Partnership.