Guest Blog: Chris Stark, Director of Energy and Climate Change, Scottish Government

Guest Blog: Chris Stark, Director of Energy and Climate Change, Scottish Government

Modern Scotland has been defined by its energy resources – just consider the waves of industrial and demographic change that have followed Scotland’s coal, oil and renewable resources.  Yet we’ve never had a distinctive plan for energy in Scotland.  That changed in December with the publication of the Scottish Government’s Energy Strategy.  I’ve been proud to watch a brilliant team here take the germ of an idea to develop a ‘whole-system’ plan, construct a new economic model of our energy use and supply and use it to produce a major consultation last year.  We brought all of this together in December with the publication of Scottish Energy Strategy: The future of energy in Scotland.  Please read it if you can.

Scottish Ministers have set a bold 2050 strategy – providing a framework for decisions, consistent with the 2050 targets in the Climate Change Act.  We intend to use this to steer private investment and consumer choices where we can – and to guide the decisions of the Scottish Government and our public partners in the future.  And it has become clearer and clearer as we’ve developed this strategy how important these decisions will be.

We are in the midst of the most fundamental of transitions.  Changes in technology and consumer preference, coupled with new market models and the decarbonisation challenge are driving huge transformation in the energy system.  We want Scotland to be at the forefront of this transition, just as it was in previous energy transitions.  ‘Energy’ in this strategy, means much more than the conventional discussion of energy supply.  We are considering a revolution in transport, the built environment and the smart networks and technologies that underpin a modern energy system.

Our central concern must be the consumer.  We talk frequently about ‘prosumers’ and smarter energy consumption, but only a small number of people choose to engage with energy in such a direct way.  Perhaps that will change, but our goal is to ensure that modern energy technologies and services benefit everyone in Scotland – permitting ‘prosumage’ (a terrible word), while protecting the interests of consumers with varying degrees of interest in actively participation in energy.  Pulling this off will require a concerted effort from policymakers and regulators.

We’ve stuck consistently to three themes as we’ve developed this strategy:

  • A ‘whole system’ approach, forcing a more integrated view of heat, the built environment, land use and transport – alongside energy supply, transmission and storage;
  • An inclusive transition, ensuring that no one is left behind as we meet our climate change obligations, with energy policies that promote the inclusive growth of the Scottish economy; and
  • A smarter model for more localised energy, drawing together the modern movement for decentralised and localised energy provision with the latest enabling technologies.

This has led us to two new 2030 targets for energy in Scotland:  1) to deliver the equivalent of 50% of all energy consumed in Scotland from renewables; and 2) driving a 30% improvement in our energy ‘productivity’ – in other words, growing the Scottish economy, while using less energy.

These are ambitious targets, designed to drive activity throughout Scotland.  They will stretch us immensely if we are to achieve them, but I believe they are the right things to focus on.  I write this blog from Denmark, where I’ve been privileged to see first-hand the Danish approach to energy planning.  The Danes have seen a transformative change in heat and power provision in the last 30-40 years.  In Scotland we need to learn from this kind of long-term clarity of vision and ambition.  We are laying the foundations in the energy strategy for a long term approach – which you will also see continued in other long-term statements, including the National Planning Framework later in this Parliament.

Scotland has always been a place of energy skills and innovation.  That continues today, as Scottish engineering and technical expertise drive developments in energy systems throughout the world.  In setting this strategy, I hope that we draw even more innovation and activity to Scotland.  Our drive to change means we need to experiment – so this is a strategy that supports projects that test new approaches.  You may recall the First Minister’s announcement at last year’s All-Energy event:  13 successful projects around Scotland, funded from our Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme.  On Monday (22 January), we announced the next stage of this programme:  a further £60m of capital funding for low carbon innovation in heat, storage and transport.  These are real projects demonstrating transformative innovation in energy systems.  I hope you’ll take a look and consider participating.

The Energy Strategy is packed with new approaches like this, grouped by six strategic priorities:

  • Promote consumer engagement and protect consumers from excessive costs;
  • Champion Scotland’s renewable energy potential, creating new jobs and supply chain opportunities;
  • Improve the energy efficiency of Scotland’s homes, buildings, industrial processes and manufacturing;
  • Continue to support investment and innovation across our oil and gas sector, including exploration, innovation, subsea engineering, decommissioning and carbon capture and storage;
  • Ensure homes and businesses can continue to depend on secure, resilient and flexible energy supplies; and
  • Empower communities by supporting innovative local energy systems and networks.

In 2018, our next consideration is the plan for energy efficiency and decarbonised heat – our blueprint for an improved built environment in Scotland.  This year, we’ll bring together a final plan for an integrated programme of public spending, regulation and legislation, driving a 20 year improvement in energy efficiency and – ultimately – decarbonised heat.  More on that in the spring.

In the meantime, my team and I would love to begin a dialogue on how we reach our goals.  See you at All-Energy in May.

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