Value of Scotland's offshore wind to be kept from public despite concerns

Two key reports estimating the true value of Scotland’s offshore wind sites will remain secret for the foreseeable future despite concerns around their worth.

The ScotWind auction, which saw access to specified seabed sites off the coast of Scotland sold off to private energy companies, raised £700m for the Scottish Government in January.

However, shortly after the auction, critics raised concerns it may have seen “profits simply blown offshore” and questioned whether the deals represented “good value for money”.

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A report undertaken by Strathclyde University in March 2021 stated a similar auction in England and Wales had “attracted unexpectedly high annual option fees” which demonstrated a “clear sellers’ market”.

£700m was raised from the ScotWind auction in January

This was, the report states, driven by an “accelerated desire from oil and gas companies in particular to transition into new markets”.

It concluded the capped auction fees initially planned for ScotWind “do indeed underestimate the market value of sites in Scotland”, leading to the caps to be raised and the auction’s year-long delay.

However, updated analysis of the ‘net present value’ will stay secret after the Crown Estate refused to release it under freedom of information legislation.

It can be revealed two reports were commissioned by the corporation – which is responsible for the management of land and property owned by the Crown – one by Aurora Energy Research, an energy markets consultancy, and another by Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), a global real estate firm.

It is these reports that will stay secret due to commercial sensitivities, the Crown Estate said.

A spokesperson for Crown Estate Scotland said: “While the process of awarding and finalising option agreements remains live, releasing these reports may compromise our ability to conclude these agreements for critical projects that will generate billions of pounds of investment in Scotland.

“Once the process of granting option agreements is over, our assessment of what can and cannot be released may change.”

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Labour’s transport spokesperson, Colin Smyth, said ScotWind has been “clouded in mystery since the beginning”.

The party has repeatedly called for offshore wind to be developed by the public sector rather than the private sector.

He added: “Instead of using our natural resources to help struggling Scots and deliver a jobs led transition to net zero, the SNP and Greens have sold off Scotland’s seabed to multinational companies with questionable human rights records.

“By selling these sites on the cheap to largely foreign owned multinationals, it’s not just wind power the Scottish Government are offshoring but the profits and jobs.

“The SNP and Greens need to come clean on the opportunities Scotland has missed from their handling of ScotWind.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said it would reinvest parts of the ScotWind windfall into tackling the climate crisis and may deliver “potentially billions in rental revenues” once projects are operational.

He added all bidders were also required to declare no unlawful activities within the last five years.

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He said: “ScotWind puts Scotland at the forefront of the global development of offshore wind and represents a massive step forward in our transition to net zero. These projects will deliver investment in the Scottish supply chain of an average of £1 billion for every gigawatt built, which will help create thousands of jobs and transform the Scottish economy.

“ScotWind will also deliver around £700 million in revenues to the public purse for these initial awards alone. We’ve already made clear we will invest some of this to help tackle the twin climate and biodiversity crises. But in addition to these revenues, ScotWind promises to deliver potentially billions more in rental revenues once projects become operational, to be invested for the benefit of the people of Scotland.

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