With an in-depth new study recommending that a ‘net-zero hub’ is established in the Forth Estuary, Forth Ports is now calling for the Scottish Government to support the initiative. By Anthony Harrington
A STUDY by the global natural resources consultancy, Wood Mackenzie, has called on the Scottish Government to establish a net-zero hub on the Firth of Forth.
In a detailed paper, the consultants argue that as the largest industrial cluster in Scotland, a net-zero hub in the Forth Estuary would strongly complement the development of Scotland’s Net Zero Roadmap.
Malcolm Forbes-Cable, Wood Mackenzie’s Vice President, Consulting and the author of the report, said: “Scottish industry currently emits about 10.7 million tonnes of CO2 per year, and the Firth of Forth accounts for about 10% of Scotland’s total emissions.”
He notes that the industries in the region contain the skills necessary to address the technical and commercial challenges the country faces in delivering its net-zero goals.
As such the Firth of Forth should be seen as a major part of any solution as well as an area where the scale of associated emissions needs to be addressed. Creating a net-zero hub in the area makes sense on both counts, he argues.
Charles Hammond, the chief executive of Forth Ports has welcomed the Wood Mackenzie study. “This is a well-researched and very significant study. As Wood Mackenzie points out, the Firth of Forth is hugely important to Scotland’s industrial capabilities. I would very much like to see the region recognised by the Scottish Government as the main engine of the country’s journey to net zero.”
Chief executive of Forth Ports Charles Hammond OBE
What is needed, Hammond says, is for both sectors, public and private, to get behind a real push to make net-zero happen in the Firth. He points out that Forth Ports Group, the UK’s third-largest ports operator, is shouldering a significant part of the financial burden itself.
In late May, the Group announced it was investing some £40 million to create Scotland’s largest, strategically located renewable energy hub on a 175-acre site at the Port of Leith. “We are making this investment in support of Scotland’s economic recovery from the pandemic, and to help the country transition away from fossil fuels,” Hammond comments.
Creating a renewable energy hub in the area would provide a huge boost for Scotland’s drive towards net zero, he adds.
Hammond points out that while it is still too early to tell what effect the Wood Mackenzie paper will have on Scottish Government thinking, it has already been successful in highlighting how essential it is for government and the private sector to work together in the fight against excessive climate change.
“Given the scale of the industrial base that has established over the decades here in the Firth of Forth, we can be very confident that the region is already central to the Scottish Government’s strategic thinking. My hope is that Wood Mackenzie’s report will be seen as a high-quality, incisive piece of work that needs to be taken forward.”
Hammond adds that in many ways the analysis and the thinking in the report echo the bid that the Forth Ports Group is making for Green Port status. Green Ports are the Scottish Government’s equivalent, or answer to, the UK Government’s decision to establish around 10 Free Ports around the country.
The Westminster Government has already announced that freeport status is to be given to eight UK ports, including Liverpool, Hull, Felixstowe, Southampton and Thames Freeport, in which the Port of Tilbury, owned by Forth Ports, is a partner. It is thought that Scotland will be granted up to two Green Ports.
These are low-tax zones, where businesses established within the freeports benefit from specific tax reliefs. These will include freedom from having to pay stamp duty plus full rebates for construction and machinery investment and five years of zero business rates. Other benefits will include lower tariffs and more relaxed customs obligations.
The Scottish Government’s Green Ports proposals, which it is still working to get UK government agreement to, differ from freeports mainly in that they add in explicit obligations on successful bidders to adhere to green policies and fair wages.
“People should not get too hung up on differences of terminology. Freeports and Green Ports will both provide a very real stimulus to businesses located at the relevant ports.
“The rules also extend to companies located up to 45 miles from a Green Port who are adding value to goods covered by the Green Port rules.
“It will be a huge driver for business and the requirement on participating businesses to commit to progression towards carbon neutrality will be crucial in achieving Scotland’s net-zero targets,” Hammond says.
He adds that Forth Ports wants to collaborate with the whole of Team Scotland to create new, high-quality green energy jobs that will enhance Scotland’s Central Belt industrial powerhouse.
“At the same time, this will be a real boost to tackling deprivation around ports.
“It will contribute to the levelling up of the large industrial areas in our coastal communities.
“This is already under way in Leith with our investment in a renewable energy hub at the port. These industrial areas must play a vital role in facilitating the country’s Net Zero and Energy Transition ambitions and will create new, high-quality green energy jobs in the process.
“We want our ports in the Forth Estuary to assist Scotland in achieving its carbon reduction targets by supporting offshore wind development,” he comments.
Hammond notes that winning Green Port status, along with having the area designated as a net-zero hub, will be immensely important in attracting companies to the Forth Estuary who can assist in the transition to low carbon fuels and biofuels.
“We will look to work with industry and stakeholders to deliver this transition and to promote emerging technologies, such as green hydrogen and carbon capture,” he notes.
Ambitious vision for new hub goes Forth to transform Port of Leith
THE Forth Ports Group is investing £40 million to create a renewables hub at the Port of Leith. A 175-acre site at the Port is being turned into what Forth Ports says will become Scotland’s largest and best located renewable energy hub.
Part of the investment will go to create a bespoke, riverside marine berth capable of accommodating the world’s largest offshore wind installation vessels.
The facility will also include a heavy lift capability of up to 100 tonnes per square metre.
The new Leith Outer Berth with Offshore Wind installation vessel, part of the £40m Leith Renewables Hub Photograph: Forth Ports
Some 35 acres of adjacent land is being set aside for logistics and marshalling.
This is to be supplemented by upgrading an existing 140-acre cargo handling site for renewables companies to use as a lay down and assembly area.
It will also be used to support supply chain and manufacturing opportunities.
The total area being dedicated to the renewables hub is equivalent to over 100 full-sized football pitches.
Forth Ports Group CEO Charles Hammond comments: “We are committed to playing a significant role in the renewable energy sector and in assisting Scotland’s energy transition to net zero as we also tackle the challenges of Covid-19 recovery and economic regeneration.”
Hammond calls the initiative a pump-priming investment in logistics and marine infrastructure at the Port of Leith. “We are helping to harness Scotland’s natural resources for future generations,” he said.
The initiative also has the potential to play a significant part in our forthcoming Firth of Forth Green Port bid.
“Leith’s proximity to the North Sea, where construction of EDF’s 450MW Neart na Gaoithe is already under way and is set to become home to many more offshore wind developments, coupled with the natural deep waters of the Firth of Forth, makes this an ideal location to support not only those developments already planned, but the pipeline of projects that are sure to follow.
That’s why we’re prepared to invest our land, our expertise and our shareholders’ money to further build and strengthen Scotland’s renewables supply chain to deliver new long-term jobs.
“Forth Ports is committed to both help make Scotland’s renewables future a reality and meet its carbon reduction targets,” he comments.
Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport, Michael Matheson has welcomed the announcement from Forth Ports.
“This significant investment from Forth Ports to develop the Port of Leith places them in an ideal position to harness the offshore wind opportunities in the North Sea, creating good green jobs and supporting a just transition to net-zero – not just for the city of Edinburgh but the wider area and beyond,” he noted.
Adam McVey, City of Edinburgh Council Leader, commented: “Renewable energy plays a vital role in tackling climate change and in securing a bright economic future for everyone in our Capital.
“The increase in jobs for people in Leith and across Edinburgh is hugely welcome and underlines our economic resilience as a City.
“The continuing regeneration of clean industry in the docks with the development of the Port of Leith Renewable Energy Hub is an important and welcome step in supporting the needed transition to a cleaner, greener future for the next generation.”