Ports and fabrication facilities lining up to play a key part in development of offshore renewables

On the back of the Scottish-wide National Renewable Infrastructure Plan prepared in 2010, HIE has been very active working with all our ports around the region, getting ready new opportunities in offshore wind, oil and gas, and wave and tidal. Indeed we estimate that over £80m has been invested in Highlands and Islands ports in the past 36 months.

But there are bigger prizes to be won, so that’s why we signed these four new joint working agreements with Global Energy Nigg, Port of Ardersier, Kishorn Port Limited and Cromarty Firth Port Authority. Announced by the First Minister at the Scottish Renewables/Scottish Enterprise Offshore Wind Conference in Aberdeen at the start of the year, these agreements – known as Memoranda of Understanding, or MOU – aim to help the ports attract investment of up to £100m to the Highlands.

HIE will be supporting the owners and operators to secure consents, market opportunities, attract investments and enable further development. It’s clear that these ports are ideally-positioned to become key hubs for the deployment of offshore wind, wave and tidal energy, right across fabrication, assembly, deployment and longer-term operations and maintenance.

Of course HIE is not just focusing on these four locations, with significant investment in places such as Arnish in the Western Isles, Campbeltown/Machrihanish in Argyll, and Orkney Islands Council investing heavily in their key ports of Kirkwall, Lyness, Hatston and Stromness. Scrabster has just seen the development of a major new deepwater facility, and HIE is helping the ports of Wick and Buckie investigate the major opportunities offered by operations and maintenance needs of offshore wind.

Sometimes we have a bad habit of not telling the world all the good work that’s going on in the North. But when we know that the offshore wind supply chain is showing strong interest in Scottish ports and harbours, the First Minister announcing these official agreements gives the market the strongest possible statement that the ports in the Highlands and Islands are open for renewables business.

Just a month later, I had the slightly surreal experience of having my signature witnessed by two Ministers from the Scottish and UK Governments at the Renewable UK Wave and Tidal conference in London.

Fergus Ewing, Scotland’s Energy Minister, along with Greg Barker the UK’s Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change, and John Thurso, MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross all joined a HIE delegation in Westminster where we, on behalf of the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Energy park, signed an MOU with the South West Marine Energy Park (SW MEP) in England. The SW MEP was launched last January, with our Highlands and Islands MEP following last summer, and the MOU is a real example of planned co-operation between the two corners of the British Isles, both blessed with huge marine renewables potential.

While each marine energy park will provide a focus for investment and industrial growth within its own geographic area, this agreement provides a basis for the two to work together to build relationships, address common issues affecting the industry and to encourage business and research collaboration.

It will also provide a means to exchange knowledge and best practice to ensure that the UK continues to be at the forefront of the global marine energy industry.

One of the first things we plan to do is provide a joint paper to the UK Government consultation on Electricity Market Reform, detailing what it needs to deliver for the wave and tidal industry. This is very important as uncertainty can cause real problems for businesses trying to raise finance for new projects, as we have seen with the recent unfortunate announcement of the closure of Voith Hydro Wavegen in Inverness.

So our Port MOUs highlight the critical role that ports and fabrication facilities of scale play in an energy industry operating in the marine environment, whether it’s oil and gas, offshore wind or the wave and tidal sector. Our MOU with the South west of England’s Marine Energy Park highlights the role that the supply chain, academia and policy co-operation play in growing the sector.

Together, they’re an important part of the developing energy ‘ecosystem’ that will deliver real growth, jobs and wealth for Scotland in the coming decades.

 

By Calum Davidson, Director of Energy and Low Carbon, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

This piece originally appeared as a column in the Energy North Spring supplement, published by Scottish Provincial Press.

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