At first sight Scotland and South East Asia might not appear to have a lot in common but, as Neil McInnes discovers, there are huge opportunities to work together to develop renewable energy projects.
Scotland and South East Asia could not be more different in terms of size or scale.
Scotland has a population of just over 5 million people. While the ten nations that make up South East Asia have more than 600 million people.
They are 10,000 kilometres apart. And with two incredibly different climates.
But there are also some similarities - particularly when it comes to energy.
South East Asia is home to a number of island nations, particularly Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand.
Like Scotland, their maritime resources are incredibly important for their development.
Scotland has over 790 islands – perhaps not as many as the 17,000 in Indonesia or 7,000 in the Philippines - but the second largest number in Europe, behind Greece.
And crucially, both Scotland and South East Asia have an abundance of natural resources that presents both challenges and opportunities for their respective energy sectors.
Over the past 40 years Scotland has established itself as one of the world energy leaders, firstly in oil and gas and more recently in the development of renewable energy.
Weather - Scotland's natural asset
As well as oil, one of Scotland’s biggest natural assets is its weather.
You may not find it in any tourist brochure for Scotland but our unpredictable weather has become one of our biggest assets – Scotland has around a quarter of all of Europe’s offshore wind potential and 10% of Europe’s tidal resources.
In the same way that the harsh experience of the North Sea helped Scotland develop world-leading technology for oil and gas, it is now doing the same in the renewables sector.
Scotland has set some very stretching and ambitious targets, including generating the equivalent of 100% of our electricity requirements from renewable energy resources by 2020.
Renewable energy generation is now equivalent to 53.8% of Scotland's electricity consumption from renewable sources such as wind, hydro, solar, and biomass – up from 27.6% in 2009 (Source: Scottish Government - Energy Statistics).
Scotland also has 60% of the UK’s installed onshore wind capacity, ranging from the large scale 539MW Whitelee windfarm to thousands of individual micro wind turbines in Scotland’s island and rural communities. Scotland is also home to the world's first deep water offshore windfarm development.
But as well as wind energy, Scotland has capabilities in other renewable and clean technologies – from wave and tidal energy to smart grids, energy storage to water and waste-water management.
Developing sustainable islands
Many of these technologies have been developed or deployed in Scotland’s island communities and this is where the potential cross-over may lie for South East Asia.
Typically, islands have very high energy costs – often through expensive diesel generation and a reliance on fossil fuels. They also suffer from grid constraints (or lack of a grid entirely) while dealing with sewage and waste presents specific challenges.
Scotland’s experience in developing technologies and solutions to overcome these challenges could potentially help other island nations to develop solutions to their own unique energy challenges and help support sustainable community developments across the world.
We’re already beginning to see traction in this area having hosted representatives from both the Indonesia and Philippines governments to Scotland.
In 2016, we led our first renewable energy trade mission to South East Asia - it was a great opportunity to build on this engagement and identify potential opportunities for collaboration in both policy and project development.
The delegation included wave and tidal organisations such as Albatern, EMEC and Green Marine to renewable energy consultants and experts such as Sgurr Energy, Shepherd & Wedderburn, Wren and Bell and University of Edinburgh who have significant experience project management and development both in Scotland and overseas.
They joined policy makers and project developers from across Asia looking at potential renewable energy projects. The mission was a platform to highlight Scotland’s progress in renewable energy development and identified the potential to export Scottish expertise to the South East Asia market.
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