Scotland is on course to meet the equivalent of 100 per cent of our
electricity needs from clean energy sources.
Renewable sources provided 74.6% of gross electricity consumption in 2018.
These welcome figures would have you believe that there is a successful and
unproblematic transition to the green energy revolution but don’t be
deceived because our renewables energy sector is in chaos.
Unite fully supports a “just transition” from fossil fuels to clean energy
but this has to be on the basis that there are green energy jobs to
transition to or we are in danger of repeating the misery of
de-industrialisation endured in the 1980s.
Claims that developing a low-carbon economy would create upwards of 130,000
jobs have turned out to be fanciful.
Instead, taxpayers are subsidising foreign firms to produce green energy
which is supplied to Scottish homes at inflated prices and the work is
being done thousands of miles away and shipped back to Scotland on
carbon-emitting container ships.
The next large-scale project to be announced at any moment by EDF, the
French state-owned energy company, is the £2 billion Neart na Gaoithe (NnG)
offshore windfarm off the coast of Fife.
The windfarm is projected to generate enough electricity to power a city
the size of Edinburgh.
It should be a fantastic opportunity to get the BiFab yards at Methil and
Burntisland in Fife, and also in Arnish, back to work.
However, it has been widely reported that EDF is on the brink of awarding
the contract for constructing the jackets to the Italian industrial giant
The vast majority of the jackets, which support and anchor the offshore
wind turbines to the seabed, are rumoured to be thereafter going to
Saipem’s Indonesian yards.
The BiFab yards based less than 10 miles away from where the jackets will
be installed will be left fighting for scraps from the table.
People previously employed by the yards will be able to literally see the
Indonesian-manufactured jackets from their kitchen window as the profits
get sent to Italy.
The French government, through EDF, seem to have a bigger say in Scotland’s
renewables sector than our own government in Holyrood.
The potential NnG scandal follows the previous announcement by the Belgian
procurement firm GeoSea DEME on the Moray East project to award contracts
for 100 turbine jackets to the United Arab Emirates fabricators Lamprell
and Belgian steel constructors Smulders, who will then further subcontract
their work to yards in Belgium, Spain and the north-east of England.
The BiFab yards unsuccessfully bid for the work. In Kincardine, despite the
best efforts of BiFab once again, the fabrication work for five platforms
supporting the project was awarded by procurement firm Cobra Wind
International to the Spanish state shipbuilders Navantia, who were €390
million in the red last year: another European state, through a company it
has a significant stake in, winning renewables contracts here in Scotland.
Both the Moray East and Kincardine offshore windfarm projects have a value
of around £2.8 billion.
It’s nearly impossible to keep track of the billions of pounds’ worth of
contracts being awarded and then sub-contracted all around the world to be
installed in our shores and land.
Last week, the latest example of the chaotic nature of our renewables
sector was exposed as the Campbeltownbased company, CS Wind, announced that
three quarters of its workforce have been served notice.
The factory is the only UK facility manufacturing onshore and offshore wind
The South Korean owners purchased the company in April 2016. As part of a
complex set of partnership arrangements, the Danish firm Ørsted made a
multi-million pound investment in the facility in December 2016 which gave
it preferred access rights to towers for its offshore windfarms.
In addition, CS Wind signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the
Swedish company Vattenfall giving the company the opportunity to tender for
tower supply contracts on future Vattenfall onshore windfarm projects. A
virtual smorgasbord of multinational interests is calling the shots in our
country’s renewables sector while politicians in our own shores sit back
and say their hands are tied.
Accordingly, Unite is calling for the Scottish Government to immediately
reconvene its Offshore Wind Summit in order to try a get a grip on the
sector. The strategic chaos has allowed billions of pounds of taxpayers’
money, through the subsidies the sector has received, to be reaped by
foreign governments and multinationals rather than by Scottish-based firms.
The fact is, there have been minimal green manufacturing jobs directly
created in Scotland. Unless government intervenes to ensure major
proportions of future contracts are awarded to Scottish and UK firms
through specific contractual clauses then by the time Scotland generates
100% of our energy needs through renewables we will, ironically, have
created zero manufacturing jobs in the process.
– Pat Rafferty is the Scottish Secretary for Unite