More than £2.5billion of new private sector investment in the UK’s vital green energy sector is on the line as ministers choose the locations of two Scottish green freeports this summer, said the consortium trying to win Scottish Highlands status.
According to Opportunity Cromarty Firth (OCF).
The OCF submitted what it described as a ‘compelling and logical’ bid for Green Freeport status for the Inverness and Cromarty Firth area before today’s 10am deadline for offers by ministers in London and Edinburgh.
A deep and sheltered entrance to the North Sea on the east coast of the Highlands, the firth is the focal point for the rapid development of the UK’s new offshore wind industry and has served as a hub for the oil and gas sector for over half a century. .
It is widely regarded in the renewable energy industry as the only place in the country suited to manufacturing equipment at the speed and scale needed to deliver cheaper electricity and energy security.
The bid is backed by 13 of the 17 winners of ScotWind seabed leases for new offshore wind farms.
The drive to set up fixed and floating offshore wind farms is also driving the development of a new green hydrogen industry, with the Highlands region at the heart of large-scale developments and export opportunities in this emerging sector. .
The OCF said in its bid that a project for a floating “super wind hub” assembly and production facility – a development that would be made possible by achieving Green Freeport status – sets the region apart from the rest of the country. .
The offshore wind boom, coupled with Green Freeport status, is expected to create around 25,000 direct and indirect jobs, the majority (around 15,000) of them in the Highlands, in a decade of construction alone.
This phase is expected to contribute around £6 billion to the economy, with an additional £60 million per year generated over the operational life of the wind farms.
Bob Buskie, Chief Executive of the Port of Cromarty Firth, speaking on behalf of the OCF, said: “We believe the impact of Green Freeport status would be transformational for the viability of projects that the renewable energy industry needs to achieve and would be key to attracting £2.5bn of new private sector investment.
“Central to this would be the establishment of the super wind hub on the Firth, which would boost component manufacturing in Scottish and UK ports, rather than this overseas activity.
“The Cromarty Firth is going to be at the very heart of the UK’s energy production map for many decades to come, like the former coal mining areas and the North East of Scotland with its geographic role in the North Sea oil and gas industry.
“We have been working closely for over two years with renewable energy developers, the supply chain and many other stakeholders to examine in detail what can be achieved locally and nationally through Green Freeport status in the Highlands. We are convinced that the result of this process is a convincing and logical offer. »
Roy MacGregor, chairman of the Port of Nigg’s owner, the Global Energy Group, added: “The renewable energy industry is going to have a bigger and longer-term positive impact on the Highlands economy than any other sector, including including our half-century involvement in oil. and gas.
“This industry knows this region can provide the location, facilities, experience and ambition it needs. Green Freeport status, which will attract new investment and help foster innovation, offers the key to ensuring this massive opportunity can be exploited to its fullest extent, benefiting the Highlands, Scotland and the UK. .
The OCF Consortium, launched in 2020, includes the ports of Cromarty Firth, Nigg and Inverness as well as Inverness Airport.
It is supported by the Inverness Chamber of Commerce and more than a dozen businesses, as well as public sector organizations and academic bodies including the Highland Council and the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).