Scotland's renewable energy jackpot: Hydrogen exports alone could be worth £25 billion a year by 2045 – Angus Robertson

Scotland is a phenomenally energy rich country. For decades the largest oil-producing nation in the European Union, it is now set to trail-blaze as a leader in renewable energy.

Germany will be hungry for green hydrogen to power hydrogen-fuelled trains like Siemens' Mireo Plus H, unveiled in May this year (Picture: Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images)
Germany will be hungry for green hydrogen to power hydrogen-fuelled trains like Siemens' Mireo Plus H, unveiled in May this year (Picture: Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images)

Few other nations are as fortunate as Scotland in winning so much on the natural resource lottery.

Climate change is forcing us to pivot away from hydrocarbons like petroleum, natural gas and coal which are doing so much damage to the global environment. In Scotland, we are truly blessed to have so much potential from renewable energy, enough to satisfy our own domestic requirements and also be exported. We have no shortage of energy potential from wind, water, wave and even solar sources and we must grab the opportunities with both hands.

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Scotland has already launched the world’s biggest licensing round for floating offshore wind energy with the potential to deliver 27.6 gigawatts (GW). The ‘ScotWind’ project opens up the exciting prospect of making Scotland a world leader in hydrogen production, which can be used in fuel cells to generate electricity or power and heat buildings. Hydrogen has massive potential across most domestic and business sectors, from transportation, commercial, industrial and residential as well as being a portable energy source. In time, it’s expected that hydrogen will provide power for cars, lorries, buses, aircraft, trains and ships.

Now Scotland has a new Hydrogen Action Plan which outlines steps to help the emerging hydrogen sector and achieve an ambition of 5GW of renewable and low-carbon hydrogen. This is the equivalent of a sixth of Scotland’s energy needs – by 2030.

The plan reaffirms a realistic ambition to produce 25GW by 2045, with a hydrogen economy potentially supporting more than 300,000 jobs. It says: “Capitalising on the potential for Scotland to become a leading exporter of hydrogen is estimated to contribute between £5 billion and £25 billion a year by 2045 depending on the scale of production and the extent of exports.” In support of the action plan, the Scottish Government is providing £100 million, including a £90 million green hydrogen fund.

Scotland’s renewable energy potential is so significant that it can provide electricity and hydrogen to other countries. The Scottish Government says “it has the ambition for Scotland to be a leading producer and exporter of hydrogen and hydrogen derivatives for use in the UK and in Europe, with the first hydrogen delivered from Scotland to mainland Europe in the mid-2020s”.

Europe’s energy transition will involve significant hydrogen imports and, with Scotland only 700-750km from the coastlines of the Netherlands and Germany, there are excellent opportunities for speedier shipment and lower transportation costs than from other locations. In addition to hydrogen export by ship, there is significant potential for direct supply by pipeline from Scotland to continental Europe.

Not only is Scotland well placed to produce hydrogen but also to develop as a centre of energy technology, infrastructure and skills. Its geographical location makes Scotland a natural northern European hub for renewable energy in general and hydrogen in particular. Hardly a week goes by without Scottish Government discussions with German federal, state and energy-sector representatives.

Scotland needs to grab the renewable energy revolution with both hands. We are lucky to be blessed with so much potential. It will help transform our economy and society and contribute to the fight against global warming.

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Angus Robertson is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central and Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Secretary