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Dale Vince: Scotland could lead on energy – but UK is letting other nations get ahead

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THE Scottish Government’s recent shock move on ­emission targets has ­precipitated a political ­crisis, whilst also undermining ­business confidence and progress towards a green economy.  

The trigger for scrapping the 2030 emissions target appears to have been the missing of the target for 2021 – but it’s irrational to scrap a target because of missing it – especially as it was only by two percentage points.

The right response is to increase ­effort, to look at the policy landscape for ways to speed the transition up.

The knock-on for the SNP appears to have been its relationship with the Greens, its coalition partners. Hard not to foresee that, you’d think. 

READ MORE: Survey shows enormous confidence in Scotland’s renewable energy sector

Now the First Minister has ­resigned, the SNP will fight a ­leadership ­contest and has become a minority government. It’s a bit of a dog’s dinner.

Scotland had ambitious targets and rightly so given the urgency with which we need to act but also given the abundance of renewable energy it has available to it.

Scotland could reach energy independence with ease.

This is not just an ­environmental ­issue, it’s a cost of living one first and foremost – energy bills across Britain are still twice as high as before the energy crisis (at their peak they were twice as high again).

This causes real hardship.

By harnessing our abundant ­resources of wind and sun we can break our dependence on fossil fuels and the international energy market that controls the price of them (the two causes of the energy crisis) – we can have permanently low energy bills and eradicate fuel poverty, and create hundreds of thousands of good jobs in “forever fuels” – the wind and the sun.

Obviously, voters want a ­responsible government, and one that achieves what it says it will, but ­abandoning government climate ­commitments ­undermines confidence in the ­industry and government policy.

Recent polling shows that 70% of ­people in Scotland support ­taking greater ­action to tackle climate change. ­

Pretty much the same as in the rest of Britain, where the ­concept of ­energy independence enjoys even higher support and across the ­political ­spectrum.

The National: Dale Vince OBE is a green industrialist and founder of Ecotricity

Climate targets are not a problem. Scrapping them won’t lead to an increase in popularity – Rishi Sunak can confirm that.

The Conservative Party have ­already adopted an anti-green stance in a desperate attempt to win votes by ­demonising a new sector.

It’s done so in the face of public opinion, ­climate science, our own legally binding ­commitments, international ­consensus and simple economics.

Here’s the thing; the green economy doesn’t just make political and moral sense, it makes economic sense.

Not only is renewable energy actually the cheapest power option in most parts of the world today, it has the ­potential to create hundreds of ­thousands of jobs and economic benefits on a scale we haven’t seen since the first ­industrial revolution.

It is nothing less than an industrial revolution itself. And Scotland could and should be at the forefront of it.


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Across the globe countries are ­racing ahead with their ­transitions to a green economy while the UK ­currently ranks last on green ­spending out of the five biggest ­western ­European economies.

It is lagging behind France, Germany, Spain and Italy as well as some of the world’s largest economies – the United States and China – whose green investments are quite staggering in size and ­ambition.

They will reap the economic benefits of this, there is no doubt.

Our own Office for Budget ­Responsibility recently reported to parliament that the cost to our ­economy of sticking with fossil fuels will be twice the cost of moving to a green energy.

It’s unarguably the right thing to do for the economy and for our energy bills.

Iceland offers a good example, it is powered almost 100% by green ­energy and the average price per unit is about 13p, that is less than half the near 30p average in the UK right now.

That’s what climate targets can give us – lower living costs.

Bear in mind that a fifth of ­Scottish households are considered to be ­living in extreme fuel poverty. Not only is that unacceptable, but it’s ­unnecessary. 

Since the beginning of the energy crisis, the UK Government has spent £78 billion just on subsidising ­energy bills.

An absurd sum of money and move when you consider that for about half that sum we could build all the infrastructure we require to be completely powered by our own sources of green energy, the wind and sun – and never have another energy crisis again.

Energy independence for half the cost of one year’s energy ­crisis. 

We’re well on the way, with green energy making up approaching 50% of the UK’s grid supply each year.

The Scottish Government recently announced that for the first time ­renewable technologies generated the equivalent of 113% of Scotland’s overall electricity consumption.

This is the highest recorded to date, and a 26 percentage point increase ­compared to 2021 – as former energy secretary Neil Gray stated: “This shows the enormous potential of Scotland’s green economy.”

READ MORE: Europe’s largest floating wind farm approved off Aberdeenshire coast

We need to unleash that, not rein it in.

The coming General Election is the most important of our lives, we have before us an incredible ­opportunity to change everything.

We’ll be ­halfway through the vital last ­decade which the United Nations said we have to act decisively to limit the global ­temperature increase to 1.5 degrees.

That already looks out of touch. ­

Scotland and the UK stand at a crossroads, as climate change ­causes rising sea levels (energy bills) and more extreme weather, none of us can afford to row back. 

We have the resources and the technology, the economics are on our side (as are the people) – we just need a government that gets it.

Scotland doesn’t have that right now. But it could have, soon.

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