green energy

Highland-based think tank says hydrogen power revolution could see Scotland reaping a massive amount of wealth as a global exporter of green energy

Think tank HIAlba-Idea, based in the Scottish Highlands, has drawn up a plan that would see Scotland well positioned to receive huge benefits from renewable hydrogen energy.

Not only could Scotland satisfy its own domestic needs, it could also start exporting green energy abroad – a move the group says will have a transformative effect on the country’s economy and standing of the nation.

The think tank asserts that Scotland would be able to fuel the proposed European supergrid, and generate so much wealth the country could establish a Sovereign Wealth Fund, similar to the one established by Norway with North Sea oil.

Headed up by economist professor Ronald MacDonald and Dr Donald MacRae, HIAlba-Idea is the first ever think tank to be based in the Highlands. MacDonald is a professor of macroeconomics at Glasgow University’s Adams Smith Business School and has been a consultant adviser to the European Central Bank, the European Commission, the World Bank, the IMF, and the UK National Audit Office.

MacRae has held under-secretary positions in the Australian Government and was a director with Australia’s commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). Australia has already begun using solar power to develop renewable hydrogen energy.

The think tank’s blueprint, Hydrogen Scotland: A Route to Export Powerhouse and Maximising Scotland’s Wellbeing While Bravely Innovating, is based on MacRae’s work at CSIRO and is due to be released imminently.

A clean, cheap, plentiful source of energy hydrogen can be produced via solar, wave or wind power. Now, for the first time, hydrogen energy can be exported, which has led some to describe the process as ‘bottling sunshine’.

MacRae has put forward the concept of storing green energy on decommissioned North Sea oil rigs. It would be kept as ammonia, from which the hydrogen can be extracted.

Many believe this will provide a viable solution to many of the West’s environmental, economic and social problems.

MacDonald suggests that this energy revolution would help solve the “tail-off in productivity of the Scottish and UK economy,” which has emerged as a result of a shift from manufacturing to services.

Describing renewable hydrogen energy as a “big transformative idea”, he says that it could take Scotland back to being “a manufacturing economy and an export power house”.

MacDonald believes that rural parts of the country will stand to benefit from the “energy revolution” and could lead to a “Highland renaissance” as many of the winds farms that will be needed could be located in these areas.

The think tank is now asking the Scottish Government and key members of the oil industry to collaborate with them to create a Scottish road map for the commercial use of renewable hydrogen.

“Clearly, a Europe self-sufficient in green energy would have the implications that go beyond decarbonisation, including that of its security, since it would no longer need to be reliant on potentially hostile countries for energy supplies,” said MacDonald.

“For Scotland, it has the potential to be a very significant game-changer. In fact, there are so many innovations that spin off it that we are actually looking at it as a whole portfolio of opportunities. For Scotland, we are talking about something of immense significance.

“If the supergrid became a reality then that in itself could be revolutionary. This could be the pathway to making the whole of Europe green.”