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Scotland looks to Emirates to help fund energy transition

UAE Scotland energy Equinor/Ole Jørgen Bratland
The Hywind Scotland offshore wind power station is the world's first floating offshore wind farm
  • 2030 target of 50% renewable energy
  • Masdar backing Scottish offshore wind
  • 19 Scottish companies visiting during Cop28

Scotland plans to “scale-up” its relationship with the UAE to help fund its transition to net zero, according to Neil Gray, the country’s cabinet secretary for energy.

The Scottish minister has been on a visit to the Middle East, strengthening relations between the two countries ahead of Cop28 next month.

State-owned Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar) previously developed the Hywind Scotland offshore wind power station, the world’s first floating offshore wind farm, with a capacity of 30 megawatts.

The project, about 25 kilometres off the coast of Aberdeenshire, provides power to approximately 6,600 homes, avoiding the release of 63,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.

It was also reported this week that Masdar will buy a 49 percent stake in Spanish utility Iberdrola’s largest offshore wind project off Scotland’s coast, known as East Anglia 3.

“There’s been a history of investment from the UAE stretching back two decades in renewable energy, that’s nothing new,” Gray told AGBI.

“I’m keen to see that scaled up so we can realise our potential.” Latest figures from the Scottish government show that oil and gas extraction was worth an estimated £8.8 billion ($10.67 billion) in gross value added to Scotland’s economy in 2019, representing 5 percent of Scottish GDP.

According to official data, Scotland generated 35.3TWh of renewable electricity in 2022, up 28.1 percent from 2021 and 9.8 percent from 2020. The electricity generated could power all households there for over three years. 

By 2030 the country aims to generate 50 percent of its overall energy consumption from renewable sources, and by 2050 to have decarbonised its energy system almost completely.

But Gray stressed that oil and gas would continue to play a fundamental part in the energy mix to power that transition.

“We want the fastest possible transition, but those that are currently working, investing in hydrocarbons at the moment, we’re going to need them over the long term to make sure we can realise our goals,” he said.

UAE Scotland energyWam
Neil Gray with Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, UAE minister for foreign trade: The UAE’s Masdar is backing Scotland’s offshore wind industry
Lessons from Glasgow’s Cop

Glasgow hosted Cop26 two years ago where nations adopted the Glasgow Climate Pact. It stated that carbon emissions will have to fall by 45 percent by 2030 to adhere to the Paris Agreement and keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

However, the event was criticised for not agreeing to a “phase-down” of coal and for the failure to make significant progress on climate finance.

Ahead of Cop28, the UAE government has also faced criticism from international media and lawmakers over the appointment of Dr Sultan Al Jaber to oversee this year’s climate summit. 

Al Jaber is in charge of UAE oil giant Adnoc, is minister of industry and advanced technology and serves as the chairman of Masdar.

Gray admitted that hosting such events comes with difficulties, but said he has seen a “determination” from UAE ministers to ensure progress is made.

“There have been many sceptics, some pretty unfair. I think there is a determination in the UAE to prove many of those doubters wrong and to see real progress on net zero,” he said.

Earlier this week Gray announced a business delegation of 19 Scottish net zero-focused companies will visit the UAE during the country’s participation at Cop28.