Oilprice.com: Scotland is famously doing very well in achieving its renewable energy goals with provisional generation statistics confirming that 2011 was a record year for renewable generation in Scotland, up 28.1 % from the previous record in 2009. Your well publicized target is 100% renewable electricity by 2020. How are you coming along with that? Is this figure really achievable?
Alex Salmond: Our Electricity Generation Policy Statement confirms that our 100% renewable electricity is technically feasible although we are not complacent and accept that it will be challenging. Delivery of the target will require around 16GW of capacity. We currently have almost 5GW operational. With a further 3.3 GW consented or operational and over 20GW in planning or scoping we are confident that the target can be delivered.
Oilprice.com: If Scotland manages to achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2020, will it continue to invest in renewable energy technology and look to become an energy exporter?
Alex Salmond: Scotland is fortunate in having a massive green energy potential. We have the best capacity for CCS in the European Union as well as a buoyant oil and gas regime, with record levels of capital investment. Our wind and seas hold some of the most concentrated potential not only across the UK and Europe, but in the world – our practical offshore renewables resource has been estimated at 206 GW. By harnessing around a third of this resource, installed offshore renewables capacity could reach 68 GW by 2050 – enough to meet Scotland’s own domestic electricity needs seven times. Around 20 per cent of the electricity generated in Scotland is already exported to the rest of the UK and Scotland can go far beyond this to become the green energy capital of Europe.
Oilprice.com: Offshore wind farms are an important part of Scotland’s renewable energy future, but what do you say about the concerns of small fishing villages, such as those of East Neuk, who fear that their livelihoods will be threatened?
Alex Salmond: “Communities across the country stand to benefit from the development of Scotland’s huge offshore clean energy resources and clearly the fishing industry is right at the heart of many coastal communities, so we aim to strike the right balance between our renewables ambitions and other competing uses for the seas. That’s why Marine Scotland is actively engaged with the industry, for example, through a trilateral policy group, bringing together government, renewables and fisheries, and by ensuring fishermen are represented on two other renewable energy steering groups and where possible engaging them in an operational capacity such as undertaking fisheries liaison duties.. It is also undertaking mapping and research into areas used by the fishing industry, including sensitive fisheries. At an individual project level, Marine Scotland is required by statute to fully consult relevant stakeholders, including the fishing industry, and the public, before any offshore renewable project can be consented or rejected.”
Oilprice.com: Donald Trump has made a public complaint and set up a campaign to prevent offshore wind farms along the coast of Scotland. I imagine he is more worried about the view from his luxury golf resort than the plight of the local communities, but the local communities do still back him. Do you believe his campaign could receive enough support to prove troublesome, or will you always be able to laugh it off as the tantrum of man who is used to getting his own way?
Alex Salmond: In terms of the local community, I’d simply point out that so far there have been some 460 representations from members of the public supporting the Offshore Wind Demonstrator project, compared to 137 against. Of course, as we have made clear throughout, each project is determined on it merits taking into account views of stakeholders, consultees and members of the public. In general terms, however, several recent surveys have shown strong public support for clean energy, including wind power.
Some 71 per cent of people in Scotland backed wind power as part of our energy mix in a Scottish Renewables/YouGov poll published around the time Mr Trump gave his evidence to the Scottish Parliament Committee. The development of the low carbon economy, driven by a renewables revolution that reindustrialises communities across Scotland, was a clear commitment in the last election which we won convincingly. So, I’m confident that our support for Scotland’s world-leading renewables industry is well welcomed across Scotland. Communities are already benefiting from thousands of jobs and tens of millions of pounds of investment. Over last year, around £750 million of new renewable electricity projects began generating in Scotland, while there is a potential future pipeline of renewable electricity projects with a capital value of around £46 billion.
Oilprice.com: Angus Armstrong, director of macroeconomic research at NIESR, said that “even with a favourable settlement on future oil revenues, its (Scotland’s) fiscal balances are likely to be volatile with large deficits in some years as a result of its dependence on oil revenues.” He suggested that an independent Scotland’s debt would be about 70% of the country’s gross domestic product. Does this fear have any founding? How do you intend to protect Scotland from an over reliance on oil revenues?
Alex Salmond: As a result of the financial crisis and the management of the public finances by successive UK Governments, the UK has a considerable national debt. Debt that Scotland will have to repay independent or not. If UK debt was allocated on a per capita basis, then for 2010-11 – the last year in which figures are fully available – Scotland’s net debt would be 51% of GDP compared to 60% of GDP for the UK.
Scotland has a broad tax base and is not overly reliant on North Sea revenues. For example even when North Sea revenues fell by 50% in 2009-10, during the global financial crises, Scotland’s fiscal position remained stronger than the UK’s.