A recent debate in Westminster allowed Gordon MP Richard Thomson to put the spotlight on the opportunities and challenges around the North-east coast. Chief among these were the offshore renewables sector and the fishing industry.
The SNP MP also questioned why, when so much energy is produced in the North-east from renewables such as these, that local people were not benefitting from reduced energy bills.
Speaking during the debate, Richard Thomson MP said:
“A good local example of an extremely successful development is the Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm, also known as the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre, which is made up of 11 offshore turbines and produces enough energy to power the entirety of the city. I had the great pleasure of going out on a boat just a couple of weeks ago to visit it. It also has a community benefit fund that supports community projects.
“Beyond that, there is the ScotWind project. Scotland’s current peak energy demand is around 5 GW. ScotWind is set to allow for a capacity of nearly 25 GW. Certainly, our coastal communities are at the forefront of that energy revolution, as well as the development of hydrogen, as the means we might use to store excess capacity that is generated and not required in that moment. It is incredibly frustrating, at a time when we are experiencing some of the highest energy prices in Europe, for people to be able to look out of their windows and see the infrastructure but not be able to see the benefit of that infrastructure on bills due to the way we choose to structure our energy markets.
“There is an elephant in the room here—the impact of Brexit, both directly and in the tardy nature of any benefits that might come through. I think particularly of our fishing industry in Scotland, but it also impacts our wider food and drink sector. Let me just take the example of langoustines. They are the most important shellfish species in terms of landed value and social economic support. In 2019, more than £91 million-worth of langoustines were landed in Scotland, making it the second most valuable stock after mackerel. We exported about 18,000 metric tonnes from the UK to the EU in 2010. That figure had halved by 2019.
“There are communities along the north coast of Scotland, where processors are not only experiencing trade barriers to exporting but facing energy bills that have increased nearly fivefold. If that is a worry for the processing sector, we can only imagine the worries the catching sector has as a result. If they are unable to supply the processors, the market has gone, and the opportunities for fishing will be exported entirely overseas.”