Leith Renewables Hub is a bold vision of future - Liz McAreavey

Scotland has set targets to tackle global climate change that are world-leading in their boldness and ambition – and that has been recognised through Scotland hosting the UN COP26 conference on climate change.

Monday, 6th September 2021, 8:00 am
Liz McAreavey

The Scottish Government wants our country to be net zero carbon by 2045 and Edinburgh has an

even more ambitious target of 2030. Net zero carbon effectively means that in 10 years the aim is

that the daily operation and life of our capital city will have no detrimental impact on our

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environment.

However, there is a real balance that requires to be struck. Can we achieve the vital reduction in

emissions needed to protect the planet and ensure a healthy economic recovery that ensures the

future well-being of people? An emissions reduction based on shrinking economy activity will not

provide the future we need.

A model that protects critical productive centres essential to our country, such as the area of the

Firth of Forth, while at the same time tackling climate change through immersion in cleaner

technologies must be the logical direction of travel.

And that is why Edinburgh Chamber unequivocally supports the plans put forward by Forth Ports to

create Leith Renewables Hub in the docks, which will support thousands of jobs in our city and help

to underscore our future economic resilience.

The time for action could not be more right. The recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate

Change report delivered a “code red for humanity”, with predictions that entire nations could be lost

to rising sea levels within decades. Parts of Leith and Seafield, amongst others, could also be lost.

The report was prepared by 234 scientists from 65 countries, drawing on more than 14,000 research

papers.

The report authors were at pains to stress that all is not yet lost. Every single thing we can do to

help, however large or small, brings progress in this most critical of battles.

One of the key weapons used to reduce carbon emission will be the move to renewable energy and

away from fossil fuels. In Scotland, that will be driven very significantly through offshore wind. The

Scottish Government’s ambitions and commitment to offshore wind are set out in the Sectoral

Marine Plan and Offshore Wind Policy Statement with the aim of creating enough clean energy to

power eight million homes, from offshore wind by 2030.

But are we ready and able to do that? Are we prepared to invest in the infrastructure essential to

achieve it? Can Scotland, which has the potential to provide a large proportion of Europe’s wind-

driven energy, ensure that real benefit in the huge global supply chain for this fast-growing industry

remains within these shores?

Some of our biggest private sector players certainly believe so. In unveiling its privately funded plan

Forth Ports want to create Scotland’s largest and best located renewable energy hub on a 175-acre

site at the Port.

Ports and harbour infrastructure have an enormous role to play in the growth of the multi-billion

pounds renewables sector which, with support from government and industry, is likely to grow ever

more quickly. Leith’s proximity to the North Sea, which is set to become home to many more

offshore wind developments, coupled with the natural deep waters of the Firth of Forth, makes the

port the ideal location to support existing and future developments.

This £40m entirely private investment will see the creation of a marine berth capable of

accommodating the world’s largest offshore wind installation vessel. Its heavy lift capability backed

up by land for logistics and marshalling will be supplemented by the upgrading of a 140-acre cargo

handling site to accommodate lay down; assembly; supply chain and manufacturing opportunities.

The scale of commitment is staggering – a total area equivalent to around 100 full size football

pitches. That is a huge area of industrial land transformed to help build a cleaner, better future for

our city and our country with the potential to:

 Support the growth of offshore wind in the North Sea

 Secure the Firth of Forth as the driver for Scotland’s green energy transition

 Create future opportunities for existing and new businesses at Leith Docks

 Help spearhead Edinburgh’s and Scotland’s Covid-19 recovery plan

 Support up to 1,000 high quality, long term direct jobs and about 2,000 indirect jobs

The Scottish Government’s Sectoral Marine Plan contains many sites for floating wind development

which, coupled with investments in infrastructure capable of handling the scale of floating turbine

technology, mean we have a chance to gain a foothold in a market with enormous economic and

export opportunities.

Crown Estate Scotland's Macroeconomic Benefits of Floating Offshore Wind report suggests that

the UK floating offshore wind market has the potential to support 17,000 jobs and £33.6 billion of

Gross Value Added (GVA), with particular potential for deployment in Scotland's tens of thousands

of square miles of deep waters. Globally, the market is set to grow massively, offering an export

opportunity to Scotland 's supply chain which is estimated at around £550 million per annum by

2050.

Offshore wind alone has the potential to create enough work for the Leith Renewables Hub for the

next 30 years, helping meet sustainability targets whilst enhancing the ongoing successful

regeneration of Leith, now named the best place to live in Edinburgh by the Sunday Times.

Forth Ports is investing to reinforce the vital role of the Firth of Forth in Scotland’s energy transition.

It will further underpin the position of Scotland’s Central Belt as a leading area of engineering and

manufacturing skills and capabilities.

The potential is enormous; the private sector leadership exists; and the investment is demonstrable.

To make it happen, we need political will to match political rhetoric if our nation and its capital are

to enjoy a brighter, greener, wealthier future.

Liz McAreavey, Chief Executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce