North-east oil and gas doyen Sir Ian Wood says Aberdeen could be the energy capital of the world – but only if political leaders show more commitment to making it happen.
The 77-year-old businessman became one of the richest and most successful in the country after growing his father’s fishing company into a multi-billion-pound oil services giant, operating in more than 50 countries worldwide.
Over the last 40 years he watched as the industry evolved through enormous highs and devastating lows.
But perhaps one of the most significant blows to the sector has been the visible damage hydrocarbons have caused to the environment and the reaction of protesters around the globe.
Sir Ian believes that now, more than ever, it is imperative the industry prepares for net zero in 2050 – and that the north-east of Scotland can also capitalise on the skills learned from oil and gas to be a leading light in energy transition.
He said he hopes with facilities like the new Aberdeen South Harbour, the Oil and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC), both universities and the backing of Opportunity North East, the region will be renamed energy capital of the world.
Sir Ian hopes the north-east’s expertise will attract “big players” in renewable energy to be based here in a cluster.
But he said political leaders must become more committed to the cause. He claims delays in the planning process, whereby it could take many years to gain permission, could discourage firms from bringing projects here.
He said: “It’s all very well for governments to deal out energy targets but they need to apply them to themselves and inject a lot of cash.
“In terms of the bureaucracy that exists in terms of offshore wind, it’s 10 years before it’s up and running after the initial period of conception.
“There’s a need to really look at it all. For a long time we have come to accept local authority planning as a very slow process. How long will it take to get planning permission for the likes of a hydrogen facility? So I believe there is a real need to look at local authority planning and the role they play in achieving what we need to to make the north-east a renewables cluster.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We agree with these aims for energy in the future and have already delivered significant energy projects, onshore and offshore.
“We are drafting an offshore wind policy statement, due to publish for consultation by the end of 2019. This will make clear our ambitions for offshore wind and the steps we will take to secure as much development and economic benefit as possible.
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