Aberdeen, Scotland, is at a crossroads. With a surge in clean energy projects taking the U.K. by storm, Aberdeen is embracing renewable energy.
Aberdeen’s involvement in the fuel industry began in the 1970s when oil was discovered in the North Sea, and extensive drilling operations were struck up. The city, once reliant on the stone and granite trade, became the Scottish headquarters for Shell. In 2022, the landscape is changing again.
The Russia-Ukraine conflict ended the reliance on Russian gas for energy in the U.K. However, with domestic oil prices still increasing, Aberdeen’s municipal leaders recognized they should ramp up efforts on renewable energy projects sooner rather than later. One example of the latest foray into renewable energy projects is a spike in offshore wind farm proposals and construction.
The declines in oil production in the North Sea and the embargo on Russian gas have pushed the Aberdeen City Council to rethink how it can retain its status as one of the richest cities in Europe. Now is a time of economic fragility in the city, but there are a lot of promising signs its industry can bounce back, with renewable energy becoming the focus for much of the world as the answer to Russian gas cutoffs.
The timing is right with the U.K. planning to switch to entirely renewable energy sources by 2050. It is vital for the city to change the energy sector to combat rising prices and climate change and to keep employment rates high. “People realize it’s a different world. Everything is shifting given what we need to do with the energy transition,” said Paul de Leeuw, Energy Transition Institute director.
There’s good news here. Estimates say that 70,000 to 80,000 people in Scotland are employed in the offshore energy sector, with 65% working or based in Northeast Scotland as of May 2022.
Not to mention a solid workforce — around 80% — currently working for Shell and BP that could transition to renewable energy with just a little training.
Aberdeen will also be assisted by the U.K. government’s push to open more renewable energy facilities by 2030. Plans are already underway for nuclear power to reemerge, but there will also be considerations for hydrogen energy production and storage, greater solar power storage and capacity, heat pumps, and much more. “We created a global oil and gas industry, and I think we can do the same in renewables,” said Denise Neill, Shell engineer, on the incoming expansion.
These efforts will drive industry and an eager labor force into a new sector. Due to its coastal location, Aberdeen is positioned well to be a significant player. The city can expect a rise in these facilities between 2030 and 2050.
There are lessons to be learned here for America’s energy hub cities like Dallas or Houston. As the U.S. and other countries look to incorporate more renewable energy sources, they can look to innovators like Aberdeen for inspiration.