EDF renewables have the contract for the new Neart na Gaoithe offshore wind farm. Although the turbines will be located around 15.5 km off the Fife coast the company plans to source much of the infrastructure for the site from South East Asia.
The project aims to generate 450MW of renewable energy (enough to power all of Edinburgh) – this makes the decision to manufacture the jackets that the turbines rest on in the far east and then ship them around the world all the more ludicrous. It will create huge additional carbon emissions – the STUC reckons this would be the equivalent of putting 35,000 additional petrol or diesel cars on the road.
Simply on the basis of its carbon footprint, the argument for dropping the EDF plan and building the jackets at the BiFab yards in Fife is incontestable. But in the context of a climate emergency it also raises other fundamental issues about how Scotland plays its part in the transition to a zero carbon economy. Mary Church, Head of Campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland puts the case very well:
We urgently need to build the clean energy economy in Scotland to do our fair share of tackling the climate emergency. But the new clean economy must be created in a way that ensures the benefits and costs are shared fairly, both internationally and here in Scotland.
Crucially, it also means losing the opportunity to create decent manufacturing work in Fife, that could help kick start the badly need Just Transition for workers and communities currently dependent on high carbon industries here in Scotland.
The skills of the BiFab workers are critical to a Just Transition. Fundamentally this is about social justice and about the contribution that Scotland can make to the global response to the climate crisis. We have abundant resources for sustainable energy production and workers with the skills required to build the new sustainable economy. However, if we are serious about dealing with a climate emergency it is essential to develop policy and institutions that enable public control and accountability.
The STUC together with Unite the Union and the GMB have launched a campaign, ‘Fife – ready for renewal’ to bring the work to Fife. And Nicola Sturgeon is backing appeals to EDF to move production to the BiFab yards. This is really welcome. But taking the climate emergency seriously surely requires going beyond call to the ‘social conscience’ of the big energy companies. There is a pressing need to develop a publicly owned energy company. Such a company could invest in production through new offshore wind, wave and tidal, take control of the grid and update it with new subsea connections and a smart distribution system and end the dependency on the market.