Only six per cent of the 30,020 jobs projected to be created in Scotland by 2015 through the growth of the offshore wind industry have actually materialised, the Sunday Herald can reveal.
A 2010 report on the future of the sector commissioned by industry body Scottish Renewables forecast that, under the most optimistic scenario, 30,020 full-time equivalent jobs would be in existence by 2015 and that this number would grow to 48,554 by 2020.
But the most recent figures show that in 2013 just 1,842 people were employed in the sector in 2013: a figure that is unlikely to have changed substantially as no offshore wind farms have been built in Scottish waters since then.
Those 1,842 created jobs are however more than twice the number of the study’s worst case scenario projection of 741 jobs by 2015, but far short of the 17,076 estimated under a second “more moderate” development scenario and considerably less than the 5,346 projected under the study’s third scenario of the number of jobs that would be created by 2015 “if Scotland fails to capture the economic benefits of offshore wind development.”
The gap between optimism and reality for Scotland’s offshore wind industry was laid bare last week when the South Korean multinational Samsung Heavy Industries said it would not be going ahead with a planned £100 million offshore wind turbine factory in Methil in Fife, which would have brought 500 jobs to one of Scotland’s most deprived areas.
The project was Scotland’s last remaining hope of creating hundreds of construction jobs in the offshore wind sector, after Spanish wind power firm Gamesa earlier this year dropped plans to build a wind turbine factory and servicing yard for the offshore energy sector in Leith, which would have seen the creation of 800 high-skilled engineering jobs.
In the end the Methil project – which received £6 million from Scottish Enterprise – only led to the creation of 20 research and development jobs following the installation of a 7MW test turbine in the Firth of Forth in 2013, which is now likely to be sold to the Glasgow-based Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult.
If offshore wind finally takes off in Scotland (so far only one offshore wind farm, the 180MW Robin Rigg farm in the Solway Firth, has been installed in Scottish waters) Scottish Renewables believes that more jobs will be created through the operation and maintenance of wind farms than from the construction of turbines or components.
Lindsay Roberts, senior policy manager for offshore wind at the industry body, told the Sunday Herald that the 2010 report’s best case scenario prediction of 30,020 jobs by 2015 was predicated on an assumption that there would be 10GW of installed capacity in Scottish waters by 2020.
“That is clearly now unachievable,” she said. “We appear to be on track to deliver within the lower scenario ranges.”
“The industry across the UK, but particularly in Scotland, is adjusting to a markedly different policy and funding landscape to that envisaged just a few years ago.
“The visibility of a sustainable market throughout the 2020s is the single most important driver of cost reduction in offshore wind. This is partly due to the ability to create a market of sufficient size to drive competition between multiple turbine suppliers and that’s why clarity over the UK Government’s long term support for this sector is so important.”
Roberts disagreed with criticism from the anti-wind farm lobby that Scotland’s deeper waters and more extreme wind conditions make it less suitable for offshore wind farms than England.
“The shallower, more benign, waters found south of the border were a perfect place for a young offshore wind industry to start in the UK but our technology and experience has now developed to a level that makes exploiting more challenging sites around the UK and in Scotland, not just possible, but desirable,” she said.
Linda Holt, spokesperson for the campaign group Scotland Against Spin, said that Samsung’s decision to pull out of the Methil project was “inevitable because Scotland’s offshore wind industry is a dead duck” and that the estimates of 30,020 jobs coming to Scotland by 2015 were “hilarious”.
Holt points to the fact that generous public subsidies have spawned almost 20 wind farms off the coast of England and Wales over the last decade but during that time only one offshore farm has been built in Scottish waters.
“The main reason is that the technical and financial challenges of building and servicing wind farms off the Scottish coast are very much greater than for wind farms in England and Wales. These are located in shallower waters, with less harsh weather and closer to centres of demand for electricity than Scottish ones would be.”
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