The UK Government says it is committed to delivering a “just transition” for Scotland’s oil and gas industry, after being accused of putting the north-east in “grave peril”.
During business questions at Westminster today, the new business and energy minister Greg Hands said Scotland has “benefitted enormously” from the UK Government’s investment in renewables.
However, he also told the House of Commons the government is sticking by proposals to develop the Cambo oilfield, and refused to commit to developing carbon capture technology in the north-east.
It comes as the energy industry faces a crisis in wholesale prices.
Meanwhile, there are growing tensions over calls from the Scottish Greens to shift away from fossil fuels as soon as possible.
Minister defends Cambo oilfield plans
At business questions David Duguid, Conservative MP for Banff and Buchan, accused the Scottish Government of lacking action on a just transition for the oil and gas industry.
In response, Mr Hands said: “I share the concerns on the Scottish Government’s approach to all of these things.
“I accept it is early days into the [SNP-Green] coalition, but I am watching it very, very carefully.
“Scotland has benefitted enormously from UK Government investment in renewables and the UK Government is delivering for Scotland.”
The minister was also quizzed on the proposed Cambo oilfield development, and was told by opposition MPs the proposals cannot go ahead if the UK is to reach its “net zero” targets.
A campaign was set up to stop proposals to develop the Cambo oilfield off the coast of Shetland, which was licenced back in 2001, and will extract approximately 800 million barrels of oil.
Mr Hands defended plans to plough ahead with the development, saying: “The climate checkpoints will apply to all future licences, but Cambo is already licenced.
“Projects which are already licenced are already accounted for in our projections for oil and gas emissions.”
Journey to net zero ‘almost impossible’
During business questions, Stephen Flynn, SNP MP for Aberdeen South, also pressed the minister on carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) clusters.
The UK Government’s energy transition deal states it will create two industrial CCUS clusters by the mid-2020s, which would have the technology to capture carbon dioxide and storing it to stop it being released into the atmosphere.
However, in 2015 the UK Government withdrew £1 billion of funding for a similar project at Acorn in Peterhead, and Mr Flynn now says he is concerned the north-east will be overlooked in favour of the north of England after Mr Hands refused to commit to the Acorn site.
Mr Flynn said: “Six years ago the Tories weaseled out of funding carbon capture technology in Peterhead and we can’t afford to head down the very same path – the Acorn project must be at the forefront of our net zero ambitions.
“There should really be no debate over the north east becoming home to at least once CCUS cluster given we are the region that is home to the energy industry – but the Tories continue to drag their heels.
“Aberdeen and the wider north east must be at the very forefront of the push to net zero, and we should be first in line for investment,
“We should not be in a situation where we are having to argue for carbon capture technology over English sites.
“If the Tories fail to guarantee a carbon capture and storage cluster at the Acorn site, they are putting the north east in grave peril and making our journey to net zero almost impossible.”