Gordon Brown backs plans for Aberdeen-led North Sea supergrid

Gordon Brown

FORMER prime minister Gordon Brown has thrown his weight behind plans for a new North Sea supergrid with Aberdeen at its heart.

The second life of the North Sea as a green energy powerhouse could be even more successful than its first phase as a source of oil and gas, the former Labour leader said today, as his think-tank called for a new North Sea grid to help deliver low carbon power across Europe.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

Why? Free to subscribe, no paywall, daily business news digest.

The call for a grid to connect up a vast new network of offshore wind turbines off the North-east coast is at the centre of a new paper published today by energy expert Nick Butler entitled “North Sea 2: The Future of Energy from the North Sea”.

Writing the introduction, Mr Brown says that the development of a North Sea grid is “an idea whose time has now come”.

He said: “Instead of us being resigned to fewer jobs and wealth coming from the North Sea in the years to come – and the job numbers running down from the current 120,000 – I can see the combination of three sources of energy- wind power, carbon capture and storage and hydrogen – generating more income and employment and Aberdeen enjoying a second renaissance as a centre for the new North Sea of the future.”

Mr Brown backs the proposal by shadow climate change Secretary Ed Miliband to create a new ‘GB Energy company’, saying it could help ensure thousands of new jobs in the green economy are kept in Britain.

Mr Brown concludes: “If we do this well, North Sea 2 could be even more successful for Britain than North Sea 1.”

Today’s paper, published by Mr Brown’s Our Scottish Future think-tank, argues that to develop North Sea 2 the next UK Government needs to deliver a “gradual balanced transition” in the North Sea from an industry focussed on fossil fuels to one delivering clean energy.

However, the report stops short of supporting Labour’s windfall tax proposals, and says that a successful transition “can only be achieved if the skills in the current oil and gas sector are retained.”

Sir Keir Starmer has proposed extending and increasing the energy profits levy by three percentage points to 78%, and would also cut investment allowances and ban new drilling licences.

Unions have spoken out to raise their concerns about the plans, while analysts at investment bank Stifel have since suggested that anywhere between 20,000 and 100,000 jobs could be at risk if North Sea investment is to cease.

Mr Butler says the costs of developing North Sea 2 will be “considerable” and will have to rely on private capital. He concludes that the private sector will only invest if they have confidence in the stability of government support, such as the creation of a distinct UK Continental Shelf tax regime.

He concludes: “The role for government and for entities such as GB Energy should be to establish a clear and enduring fiscal and regulatory framework within which such investment can begin.”

The latest stories