IN energy terms, Scotland got lucky twice. First with North Sea oil, the benefits of which were squandered by Westminster governments using Scotland’s oil to stop the rest of the UK from needing bailouts during the 1970s and 80s. Secondly, with renewable energy, where we have the potential to be a world-leading renewables powerhouse, not just generating renewable energy but – just as importantly – exporting renewable technology development and management.

We have an opportunity to shine a light for the rest of the world to follow. The problem is that without the full range of powers of an independent nation, Scotland’s government can only take baby steps towards implementing the rapid transition to renewables that our economy and indeed the climate requires.

Energy policy is reserved to Westminster and it’s clear that the current UK Government is committed to nuclear power and has little interest in Scotland’s renewables. The next government (Labour) actually are more interested in Scotland’s renewable energy – but that’s not a good thing.

Keir Starmer’s entire energy and economic strategy is based on keeping Scotland in the Union to exploit Scotland’s renewables – in exactly the same way that previous Labour and Conservative governments did with North Sea oil revenues. Starmer has announced a new public energy company called “Great British Energy” – a publicly owned entity to exploit the UK’s renewable energy potential – exploiting Scotland’s renewable energy potential.

READ MORE: McCrone: Can Scotland ditch oil and gas and still be 'energy rich'?

The Scottish Government lacks energy, borrowing and economic policy powers and this handicaps Scotland’s economy, limiting its ability to generate public and private investment that would turbocharge its renewables sector. Despite this, the sheer potential of our unique geography and weather conditions, combined with the Scottish Government’s enlightened focus on renewables, has resulted in some major progress.

Scotland is a world leader in foreign direct investment in wind power

According to a report published this week by FDI Intelligence, Scotland attracted more foreign direct investment (FDI) in wind power than anywhere else in the world.

Seabed rights auctions led foreign investors to commit to $54.8 billion of investment in Scotland’s wind energy sector. Global wind project FDI amounted to $111.3bn in 2022. Scotland generated almost half (49.2%) of all the wind power FDI in the world.

Renewables and Scotland’s economy

WITH 8.1% of the UKs population, Scotland managed to generate 22.11% of UK total renewable energy in Q3 2022. In 2021, the renewable and low carbon economy in Scotland was worth £8.7bn (16% of the UK total) employing around 28,300 people. Renewable energy exports also totalled £1.345bn

Additionally, Scotland’s net exports of electricity in 2021 were valued at £2.4bn. That’s 16,028 GWh of energy- enough to power every home in Scotland for 20 months. In addition, 85.2% of gross energy consumption in Scotland came from renewable sources.

Three implications for Scottish renewables and independence

Household energy bills increased by 54% in April 2022, then by a further 27% that October. Next month, they will increase further still by 20%. However, the situation is worse in Scotland as we pay disproportionately high prices for electricity, especially in rural areas.

Mainland UK operates a single pricing zone for electricity. England and Wales use more expensive gas to generate electricity and this drives up the price for consumers in Scotland. In England and Wales, gas makes up 39.5% of all electricity consumption; in Scotland, it’s only 15.6%.

Transmission charges are also higher in Scotland due to outdated national grid pricing structures. Scotland is a net exporter of electricity to the rest of the UK, and Scottish generators pay higher transmission charges to connect to the grid. UK transmission charges increase the further the electricity generation source is from English population centres.

The National: How Scotland ranks in terms of foreign direct investment for wind power projects How Scotland ranks in terms of foreign direct investment for wind power projects (Image: Gordon MacIntyre Kemp)

To cover this increased cost, energy companies bill consumers a fixed amount known as a standing charge. As transmission charges in Scotland, especially northern Scotland are higher, people in the UKs most energy-rich nation pay more for energy – funny that.

An independent Scotland’s energy market would be driven by Scotland’s energy mix of massive and increasingly cheaper renewable energy sources.

Only independence offers Scotland an energy market that can deliver far cheaper renewable energy to power Scotland’s homes, hospitals, schools, shops, factories, offices, trains and vehicles.

Scotland has a clear lead in European offshore wind

THE Scottish Government recently backed down on claims that Scotland possessed 25% of the EU’s offshore wind. Let’s look at facts, not potential figures but actual planned developments. Scotland has offshore wind projects underway to increase capacity by 42GW by 2035. Over the same period, the whole of the EU is planning 220 GW of offshore wind.

So Scotland, with only 1% of the EU’s population, has planned offshore wind capacity of 42GW, approximately 20% of the EU’s planned increase. This serves to show that Scotland is a massive overachiever and a world leader in offshore wind projects.

The wrong type of transition to renewables will harm the environment

It is clear that the world needs to urgently transition away from carbon fuels to renewable energy. COP events show just how hard generating meaningful agreement on curbing climate change can be.

Climate change is accelerating and it’s already too late to avoid mass extinctions, significant loss of natural habitats and the need for mass migration of peoples from affected areas.

The next few generations of humans (at least) will suffer the consequences and living in the wealthy Global North will be no protection.

You would expect me to say we should stop developing new North Sea oil fields but that’s a simplistic solution.

READ MORE: The growing divide between the UK and Scotland’s approach to energy

In fact, transitioning from North Sea oil in the wrong way will damage the planet, damage Scotland’s economy and eventually slow our transition to renewable energy and a carbon-positive economy.

If we immediately stopped oil production, or even the development of new fields, it won’t make a jot of difference to global demand or the climate.

Any shortfall in oil from Scotland will be replaced by production increases elsewhere.

A better plan is to first impose a windfall tax on energy company profits, then reintroduce the tax cuts and rebates offered to oil and gas companies by the UK Government, let’s stop Scotland’s oil extraction being tax free for the big oil companies.

This is not only an affront to the need to address the climate emergency, it is unique to the UK and designed to damage Scotland’s finances by reducing North Sea revenues, even putting them in the red some years.

READ MORE: Aberdeen's ambitious plan to become a net zero city

All North Sea taxes should then be reinvested in a massive renewable energy transition programme, putting Scotland at the forefront of global renewable technology and renewable energy generation.

That will slash consumer and business energy bills, grow our economy, create more, better-paid, higher-quality jobs and exponentially increase our energy and energy technology exports.

Being able to supply the rest of the UK and Europe with vast amounts of the cheapest renewable energy will rapidly reduce demand for hydrocarbon fuels and speed up the transition to carbon neutrality.

All we have to do is believe in Scotland and choose a better path than we could ever follow as part of the UK.

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp is the chief executive of Business for Scotland, an economist and author of the best-selling book on Scotland’s economy, Scotland the Brief