EDINBURGH, Scotland, March 20 (UPI) -- Scotland has seen $3.5 billion in recent renewable energy investments but its independence push could hurt its progress, British Energy Minister Ed Davey says.
Davey, speaking Monday at the Scottish Renewables Conference in Edinburgh, praised the "Scottish success story" for attracting investments for alternative energy sources, revealing its has raked in $3.5 billion during the last two years, creating around 4,500 jobs.
But he also warned Scotland's drive for independence could cost it easy access to British green energy markets.
"You all know the statistics," he said. "Some 11,000 jobs supported by the renewable energy industry in Scotland. Over 35 percent of electricity used here generated by renewables. A massive source of inward investment ... This is green growth. These are green jobs."
He specifically cited Areva's plans for a new offshore wind manufacturing plant in Scotland, creating some 750 new green jobs, as well as Gamesa's recently announced wind turbine manufacturing plant at the Port of Leith, which will produce 800 jobs.
Davey also noted Samsung Heavy Industries is proposing to base its first European offshore wind project in Fife, Scotland, bringing 500 jobs, and cited the 100 jobs to be provided by the new Aikengall 2 wind farm.
"All these projects (are) based on green investment, creating green jobs, providing huge benefits to communities in Scotland," he said.
The industry trade group Scottish Renewables said in January offshore wind developers have invested around $250 million in the Scottish economy, including $98 million in 2012 alone.
Last year, projects representing more than 4 gigawatts of potential offshore wind installed capacity -- enough to power 3 million homes -- entered the planning system.
Most of the investments have been in the form of research, such as environmental surveys, technical engineering surveys and project demonstration.
However, the group said, the flow of private finance is also generating "huge opportunities" for the supply chain, and once the projects are granted approvals, it will prompt others to enter the market.
Davey also touted the British coalition government's electricity market reforms as a means to open up another $12 billion in clean energy investments.
"Our long-term vision is for a competitive market where low-carbon technologies, including renewables, participate on a level playing field," he said.
"The current electricity market can't deliver that" because it is skewed to fossil fuel capacity and also because "the current ways in which we bring on low carbon don't deliver best value for consumers," Davey said.
To help solve that dilemma, he touted the government's efforts to set a new carbon price floor and to guarantee contract prices for low-carbon generators.
However, the energy minister also delivered a warning to Scotland that it won't receive any special treatment for its green energy industry should it vote to become independent, and would find itself in competition from foreign suppliers for British customers.
"An independent Scotland will be just that -- independent," Davey said. "Treated by the U.K. as just one of a number of countries it could buy renewables from. We are pursuing a number of interconnection projects with our European neighbors, including Norway and Ireland.
"For an independent Scotland, this would potentially represent serious competition."
The economic reality, he cautioned, "is that Scottish energy industry would lose the benefit of the U.K.'s international clout when promoting Scottish products and industries -- instead it would be in direct competition to the U.K."
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