Fears for the future of a north-east energy quango have been dismissed by the Scottish Government – despite concerns from the leader of Aberdeen City Council.
Councillor Jenny Laing revealed worries about the future for the Net Zero Technology Centre (NZTC) – and other work funded by the Aberdeen City Region Deal – after the SNP struck a deal for Scottish Green support.
Both Green co-conveners have landed ministerial jobs with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s government, having stood for election in May on a manifesto to “challenge backdoor funding for oil and gas” and specifically naming the Oil And Gas Technology Centre (OGTC).
Mrs Laing, vice-chairwoman of the city region deal joint committee, has expressed concern for future investment given the Green influence on the Holyrood government.
“They vowed to challenge the Scottish Government so-called ‘backdoor funding’ of oil and gas,” she said.
“From our perspective, now they have been installed in ministerial positions in the centre of government, it is a huge concern to us that the major project within the city region deal may be influenced by them.
“We have always argued that the sector is part of the net zero solution and making sure climate change targets are achieved.
“Unless we bring them along with us, we won’t meet those targets.”
Shift in focus to concentrate on net zero technology effort
Formed in 2017 with £180 million in backing from the Scottish and UK governments, the OGTC was initially set up to make the most of remaining oil and gas reserves.
However, bosses this summer revealed a soft rebrand – becoming the NZTC to shift focus to work on an accelerated move to making low carbon energy affordable.
But the Aberdeen Labour leader said that net zero energy was already high on the agenda when named on the Greens’ hit list.
Mrs Laing added: “The NZTC is a prime example, as right from the very beginning – though linked to oil and gas – they were bringing forward technology to allow the transition.
“They worked with oil companies on carbon capture and storage and developing hydrogen – things which will be hugely important as we try to move away from fossil fuels and into cleaner, greener energies.”
Government ‘full supports’ rebranded NZTC
After the rebrand, Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, accompanied by UK minister Michael Gove, visited the centre – voicing her “full support” for the shift in focus at a “crucial time” for businesses recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.
That support was again underlined by a Scottish Government spokesman, who issued Aberdeen Journals a nearly identical statement.
He said: “We fully support the Net Zero Technology Centre’s recent rebranding, which aligns with their fresh purpose of supporting the oil and gas industry to develop and deploy technology to accelerate the transition to an affordable net zero North Sea.
“They are also one of our key partners in the Aberdeen City Region Deal, which is backed by £125m of Scottish Government funding over 10 years, contributing to the region’s economic recovery by creating jobs and providing the commercial infrastructure to support and attract businesses to Aberdeen and the surrounding areas.
“This is a crucial time for business, trade and investment in Scotland and investing in our communities will ensure every part of Scotland recovers from the pandemic, helping build an economy for everyone.”