The energy company EDF is coming under intense pressure in Scotland to help pioneer a “just transition” from oil to renewables by investing in wind turbine manufacture in the UK, rather than outsourcing the work to Asia.
EDF is in the centre of a dispute between the energy giant and its critics that centres on a massive new wind farm that will be built off the Scottish coast by EDF. When it is finished the 450MW wind farm will power hundreds of thousands of homes.
If you log on to EDF’s website regarding the prestigious £2 billion (pounds) development, it says that “Neart na Gaoithe” wind farm – known as NnG – is one of the next major “shovel ready” infrastructure projects in Scotland, which “will create thousands of Scottish jobs for every year of construction.”
However, despite these bold claims regarding jobs being created locally, it is currently unclear how many jobs will actually be created in Scotland, rather than outsourced to potentially cheaper labour oversees.
This is because at the moment the 60 vast fabricating jackets for the wind farm off the Fife coast are believed to be due to be constructed in Indonesia, some seven thousand miles away, rather than at the local Burntisland Fabrication (BiFab) yards, that currently lie idle just miles from the wind farm.
Unions are outraged by this and are now attempting to get EDF to change its mind and get the turbines built in Scotland.
Not only does this make environmental sense but also economic sense, as local jobs are desperately needed as the North Sea slowly declines and oil and gas jobs ebb away.
Indeed, the Scottish Unions have accused EDF of breaking promises on local jobs and have now set up a Fife ‘Ready for Renewal’ campaign “to make good” on those promises to give jobs to locals in Scotland.
Pat Rafferty, Scottish Secretary of the Unite Union, said: “The yards here are ready and waiting to get started on work that could create jobs for over 1,000 people, unlocking much needed investment and growth for our future.”
Raffety continued: “If the bulk of the wind turbine jackets are built in yards just ten miles from the wind farm, it would mean less shipping and significantly less carbon emissions over the lifespan of the NnG project. That’s more good news for our environment and the future of the planet.”
Gary Smith, the Scottish Secretary of GMB Union, added: “Fife is ‘ready for renewal’ and NnG is the opportunity we need. We have the yards, we have the skills and we have the communities ready to play their part in tackling the climate emergency.”
“EDF must think again and do what’s right for Fife, for Scotland and for the environment,” argued Smith.
Environmental and community groups are supporting the Union campaign. They argue that shipping the turbines all the way from Singapore would add the carbon dioxide equivalent of 35 million cars.
Dr Richard Dixon, the Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, argues that the UK Government needs to ensure the jobs stay in the UK.
He says that the Government has “plenty of leverage to do that .. It is the UK and Scottish governments which control the many licenses and permits needed to construct offshore wind farms, and decide which go ahead and which do not.”
“To make the Just Transition real both governments need to urgently use their powers to create zero-carbon jobs at home,” says Dixon.
Indeed, the BiFab yards were covered in the report published by Oil Change International, which was co-published with Friends of the Earth Scotland, entitled Sea Change.
The report outlined in detail how a well-managed energy transformation, based on “Just Transition” principles, could meet the UK’s climate commitments while protecting livelihoods and economic well-being.
The report outlined how the BiFab yards are “well positioned to enable its employees to shift from work in the carbon-intensive economy to renewables without sacrifice of wages and conditions, i.e. a Just Transition.”
But for a true Just Transition to happen “Trade unions and elected worker representatives should be actively involved in shaping and negotiating any employment transition.”
The author of Sea Change, Greg Muttitt, argues:
“The energy transition is not just about megawatts, but people. Investing in communities is a vital part of a just transition, not only because it is right but because it helps grow support for the rapid transition we need. EDF should rethink its supply plans if it’s serious about investing in a renewably powered future that doesn’t leave local workers behind.”
The Unions are key to helping the transition from oil to renewables. They must be listened to and their concerns addressed.
To this end, they are organising an event on June 20 from 6pm-8pm when they hope EDF will meet the local community to explain their decision to move the jobs oversees.
As the Facebook page to promote the event states: “Neart Na Gaoithe means strength of the wind. Let’s show EDF the strength of the people.”
Meanwhile EDF has refused to comment on “speculation” that the work is going abroad. Its silence to urgently clarify the situation as the Unions are demanding is becoming deafening.