How a Highland fling can pay off for UAE

As he visits the Emirates, Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, writes for The National outlining the opportunities for the UAE to participate in his nation's renewable energy industry.

Scotland has been pursuing measures to exploit its potential renewable energy resources . Above, a wind farm in Ardrossan. Suzanne Plunkett / Bloomberg News
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The UAE and Scotland share a common legacy in being two of the world's most important countries for producing oil and gas. While both countries continue to benefit from economies built on hydrocarbons, they now face - more than ever - a genuine requirement to develop and invest in alternative sources of energy.

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It is my firm belief that the global energy leaders of today can continue to be the global energy leaders of tomorrow.

Scotland has been pursuing measures to exploit its potential renewable energy resources during the past eight years. We are relatively small in terms of population and land area, but the country boasts a quarter of Europe's wind and tidal power and a tenth of Europe's wave resources.

To ensure this opportunity does not go to waste, the Scottish government has created a low-carbon economic strategy comprising targets, mechanisms to support investment in research and development, and incentives for international firms to invest in Scotland's renewables infrastructure.

The Scottish government's commitment to developing its renewable energy capacity includes setting the country some of the world's most ambitious targets.

For example, Scotland aims to generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of its own electricity demand from renewable resources by 2020.

Scotland's original target had been to generate the equivalent of 40 per cent of its electricity consumption from renewables by 2020, but steady progress in capacity building (particularly in offshore wind) has allowed Scotland to increase the target to first 50 per cent, then 80 per cent and now 100 per cent.

The aim is to generate twice as much energy as the country needs, just over half of it from renewables, and just under half from other conventional sources. Scotland will thus become a net exporter of electricity, exporting as much electricity as it consumes.

Scotland also aims to deliver an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with an interim target of 42 per cent reduction by 2020, and is committed to meeting 30 per cent of all primary energy demand from renewables by 2020.

The country's natural energy potential equates to about 206 gigawatts of recoverable offshore renewable capacity, in addition to a current onshore capacity of 2.8 gigawatts, provided by 117 wind farms.

We recognise that international partnership and investment is critical to pushing forward innovation and realising the full potential of green energy.

As such, some of the biggest names in the energy sector have chosen to expand their offshore wind turbine operations in Scotland, including Mitsubishi Power Systems Europe, Gamesa and Doosan Power Systems.

Scottish Development International (SDI), the Scottish government's trade and investment arm, has dedicated energy specialists that can help Emirati companies make the most of investment opportunities in this thriving industry. SDI has offices around the world, including the Middle East, and seeks to maintain close relationships with energy companies who could benefit from partnering with Scotland.

Scottish trade in the region already tops US$1.6 billion (Dh5.87bn). Trade with the UAE is estimated to be $620 million each year, specifically in key sectors such as traditional energy and education.

SDI can connect Emirati decision-makers within the low-carbon sector with their peer group in Scotland's leading renewable energy companies and research organisations.

SDI can also help them to identify and access sources of funding, government grants, training and other support measures to ensure Emirati companies can take full advantage of the vibrant renewables sector in Scotland.

Our investor support programme offers comprehensive advice and business development support including marketing and market research assistance, investment advice and specialised training.

The Scottish government has also established a $110m fund to help attract infrastructure providers to Scotland to assist with the development of ports servicing the offshore wind industry.

One of the key challenges faced by the world, as it continues to expand in population and wealth, is sustainable energy. As the GCC countries continue to be among the world's biggest users of electricity per capita domestically, a sustainable approach to electricity generation is now critical.

Together, I see the UAE and Scotland as pioneers in this power revolution, as we combine our legacy experience and diversified investment in alternative sources of energy.

Future innovation in renewable sources such as marine energy has great scope for growth, but it needs to be nurtured by a supportive environment with a strong framework for progress.

Scotland aims to continue to provide an important part of that environment for many companies from around the world.

*Alex Salmond, the first minister of Scotland, began a three-day visit to the UAE yesterday