Building a new scotland: energy and the EU

The Scottish Government’s latest paper on preparing for independence puts EU membership at the heart of its case. This has implications for energy policy. Here is a brief summary of Scottish and EU positions. EMiS is neutral on the question of independence but supports the Rejoin EU policy.

• The economic potential from developing Scotland’s energy resources would be boosted by rejoining the EU and could create 300,000 jobs.  Europe’s energy sector is undergoing huge change and massive investment.  Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has accelerated this process while creating a short-term energy security crisis.

• The EU has, for decades, been the prime mover behind UN Climate Change accords culminating in the 2015 Paris Agreement and its path to net zero.  Scotland has been a renewables leader both internationally and within the UK, with  policy aligned with the EU.

Plans for a single market in energy, initiated by pre-Brexit UK, are being stepped up.  UK-EU cooperation on energy policy remains in place – viz interconnector to Germany – but Brexit has made such projects more difficult.

The EU is investing billions in the transition from hydrocarbons to renewables under it’s “Green New Deal” that  aims to leverage investment of at least €1 trillion.     

LNG is expensive and hydrocarbon-based so a short-term solution if the EU and UK are to meet their Paris commitments. 

• Among renewables: Tidal power holds huge promise as a steady predictable zero carbon source but is in the large prototype stage.  Orkney is one of the relatively few locations in the world with sufficiently strong tidal flows for testing and has enjoyed EU funding at its European Marine Energy Centre.

• Carbon Capture & Storage has received UK government backing for a large scale project on Teeside/Humberside (against a proposed Scottish site).

• Wind power is relatively mature but has the weakness of intermittency.  Measures to address this include hydrogen production, storage and network resilience.

Hydrogen is increasingly seen as an intermediate fuel of considerable potential. 

Gas storage is relatively well provisioned in the but the UK’s storage capacity has been curtailed.  Work has, however, now begun to reopen Rough.

Additional interconnectors will help network resilience by enabling energy supplies to be redirected from one part of the continent to another.  The EU has agreed rules for cross-border energy infrastructure in 11 priority corridors.  Of note to Scotland :

  • North Seas offshore grid (NSOG): Integrated offshore electricity grid development and related interconnectors in the North Sea, Irish Sea, English Channel, Baltic Sea and neighbouring waters.
  • Atlantic offshore grids: Offshore electricity grid development, integrated offshore electricity grid development and their interconnectors in the North Atlantic Ocean.
  • 3 “corridors” (Western, Central, Baltic) specifically addressing hydrogen infrastructure.  Does not include UK.
  • 3 thematic areas across the EU, including smart electricity grids, smart gas grids) and development of transport infrastructure for captured CO2.