How Scotland’s onshore wind sector deal will help meet an era-defining challenge – net zero emissions by 2045
This demands an almost unprecedented transformation, not seen for half a century.
The recently signed Onshore Wind Sector Deal seeks to meet this era-defining challenge with a distinct approach.
Co-created by the Scottish Government and the renewables industry, the deal locks both sides into the actions required to deploy a minimum of 20GW of onshore wind by 2030.
The deal seeks to contribute to overcoming technical barriers such as electricity grid infrastructure capacity and grid connection delays, constrained planning resources and often long-term consenting timeframes.
But crucially, it goes much further.
There are four foundational areas – supply chain, skills, community investment and biodiversity enhancement – that industry and policymakers must get right if we are to deliver on Scotland’s renewable energy ambition.
Vitally, these are areas where Scotland’s engineering heritage and local knowledge can play a key role.
Firstly, Scotland has a thriving business community, and it’s critical that the renewables sector incorporates these firms into new supply chains.
This will ensure the sector mobilises the industrial support to deliver the 2030 target, whilst channelling commercial returns into local companies, enabling Scottish businesses to benefit from the country’s central role in the global clean energy market.
The deal commits industry to publishing data on the use of local construction materials and data on the sector’s onshore wind development pipeline to identify where developers can pre-scope work with local companies.
For Statkraft’s Keith Greener Grid Park in Moray – providing stability of electricity flow to the grid, enabling more renewables to be connected – we utilised our Local Supplier Register to increase the number of local firms we used in construction, supporting one-person companies through to larger firms.
Promoted with local chambers of commerce, the register links to the deal’s goal to funnel contract opportunities to Scottish firms during the construction, operation and maintenance of sites.
The deal also commits to capturing data on where there are skills gaps across the sector.
With this data, the education sector can develop relevant training to support the energy transition, while providing a baseline to inform sector pledges on new apprenticeships, training opportunities and skilled jobs.
At Statkraft, we recently welcomed our two STEM Fund scholars in partnership with the University of the Highlands and Islands.
But we must go further. The future of renewables lies in the hands of the next generation of talent and there is a responsibility on the industry to invest in nurturing that talent.
One of the most vital elements of the deal is a focus on enhancing community investment, including setting a commitment to revamp how Community Benefit Funds are financially governed and evaluated.
Maximising the impact of these funds beyond free-standing financial contributions is critical.
At Statkraft, we are working closely with communities, ensuring the funding of holistic and locally designed initiatives, such as feasibility studies on super-fast broadband infrastructure, so communities have the technology to thrive.
The 52.5MW Baillie Wind Farm – which Statkraft part owns – provides a Community Benefit Fund worth £130,000 every year, with a portion dedicated to the Caithness Business Fund to support the growth of emerging local companies.
It’s crucial we listen to and work with people to ensure the transition delivers solutions that work for Scotland’s communities.
Lastly, the deal brings biodiversity to the forefront of the agenda, recognising that the renewable energy industry can play a significant role in the improvement of Scotland’s natural environment.
The deal commits to a national approach to monitoring and evidencing onshore biodiversity enhancements, which is crucial in demonstrating how net zero goals and conservation sit hand-in-hand.
If we can take Scotland’s businesses and communities on this exciting journey, we can create the conditions to deliver on our 2030 targets – while realising a just, equitable energy transition.
This is how we will renew the way Scotland and the UK are powered.
Tom Walker is head of wind at renewable energy multinational Statkraft, which has recently opened a new headquarters in Glasgow
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.