15th March 2022
Following discussion in private (due to commercial confidentiality requirements) The Council has agreed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with H2 Green Ltd to explore opportunities to develop a regional green hydrogen network across the Highlands. This has the potential to establish the Highlands as the leading UK-centre for the decarbonisation and innovation of rail, road and marine transport, supporting Highland jobs, promoting local supply chain development, and accelerating the region’s net zero transition
The Highland Council will contribute £100,000 to the cost of this planning work which will come from the £2m investment funds approved at their budget meeting the previous week to progress the local authority’s net zero ambitions, invest in green energy and provide long-lasting benefits to Highland communities.
Both parties have commenced negotiations on the terms of a proposed Joint Venture Agreement under which a Highlands decarbonisation plan would be delivered, which will be brought back to the Council for consideration within the next 6 months.
The Highland Council Leader, Margaret Davidson said: “I am excited about the potential benefits this agreement could bring. For too long the Highlands has seen its natural resources exploited for the gain of others. We are entering a new era a renewable energy. The Highlands has a unique opportunity to be at the forefront of the green energy revolution and make sure those benefits – environmental and financial – are retained in the area for future generation to come.”
H2 Green is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Getech, focused on developing and operating green hydrogen hub infrastructure. Marcus Hunt, Director of Commercial Services and Investments at SGN said:
“SGN is fully committed to supporting decarbonisation and the development of the Hydrogen economy and this is an exciting development on that journey with H2 Green and the Highland Council, helping to bring zero carbon fuel and wider economic benefits associated with the H2 economy to the Highlands region.”
Leader of the Opposition, Cllr Raymond Bremner, commented: “This ground-breaking development offers huge potential benefits to the Highland economy through job opportunities during construction and operation and through the development of supply chain linkages to local and incoming firms based throughout the region.”
He continued: “Making better use of off-peak green electricity will reduce the cost of Constraint Payments. These end up being added to household bills. Lower Constraint Payments will mean lower bills for families and businesses. That’s great news. We’ve a positive future ahead of us.”
The Council also considered a report in public which set out how the organisation is investing and positioning itself to maximise the benefits from the wider renewables sector for both the local authority and the communities it serves.
Members re-stated Highland Council’s commitment to work with Opportunity Cromarty Firth on the development opportunities that could arise from a Green Freeport bid.
In addition, members agreed that the Council should seek involvement and backing of the Scottish Government to provide a legislative and regulatory framework that supports the local authority’s ambitions for Highland communities and people.
Highland Council agreed to invest £100,000 in exploring how to derive income from renewables following on from a Motion passed in May 2021. At that meeting the contrast was highlighted between the vast profits being made by private energy companies from renewables/green energy scheme in Highland and the relatively limited benefits received by Highland Council, with its sub-optimal infrastructure. A draft scope of the work to be undertaken was approved today by Members.
The Council has also invested through the Salix Fund to deliver improvements in the Council’s infrastructure from street lighting to the Hydro Ness Archimedes screw project.
Chair of the, Economy and Infrastructure Committee, Trish Robertson said: “The green agenda is very fast moving indeed, and it is crucial that the Council is best-positioned to react quickly and respond flexibly in order to maximise opportunities that are likely to come forward in the weeks and months ahead.
“By investing in this area, the Council not only stands to benefit financially with the creation of potentially sizeable and sustainable income streams but will also be able to make progress towards net zero and provide long-lasting benefits to Highland communities.”
The Council’s Sustainable Highland Budget strategy for 2022/23, agreed as part of the collaborative budget, will provide £2m of investment to help tackle the climate and ecological emergency, and invest in green energy and jobs.
Depute Leader Alasdair Christie added: “It is anticipated that there will be a financial return on the investment as well as a major contribution to the Council’s Net Zero agenda. Going forward, it is great to know that there are numerous opportunities to work with the private sector to deliver schemes in the Highlands, with a view to securing substantial long term income streams and I very much welcome today’s agreement to enter into an MoU with H2Green.”
Discussions are being held with partners such as HIE and the Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration 32 Partnership to ensure that a prospectus of the opportunities that can be delivered in Highland is prepared and resourced as the projects evolve.
Many of the port facilities in Highland will have great opportunity to benefit from the short, medium, and long-term opportunities.
Whilst Scotwind and the committed off-shore renewables sector provides a massive opportunity, there remains high levels of industry interest in on-shore wind development as well as significant hydro schemes.
Chair of the Council’s Corporate Resources Committee, Jimmy Gray, added: “It is important the current work being undertaken through the transformation agenda to ensure maximum benefit arising from those schemes in terms of infrastructure improvements is maintained and strengthened.”