Posted: 30 Mar. 2020 5 min. read

State of the State 2019-20: An interview with Claire Mack at Scottish Renewables

Transitioning to a Zero Carbon Society

Ed Roddis, Deloitte’s Head of Government and Public Services Research and Claire Mack, CEO of Scottish Renewables

As part of our annual State of the State research, we spoke with industry leaders and experts in Scotland to get their views on the nation’s key challenges. As one of the report’s central themes was Climate Change, we spoke with Claire Mack, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, on how it will impact Scotland’s economy and her vision for the future.

The State of the State found that across the UK, including Scotland,  public concerns over the future of the environment have risen sharply in the past year, driven by stark warnings from the UN and Greta Thunberg’s climate activism. More than half the public now fear the environment is set to get worse, with 80 per cent welcoming government interventions and legislative commitment to reduce carbon emissions to net zero.

Claire, the UK Government is seen as a frontrunner in the move towards net zero - should it be doing more to celebrate that?

I think the level of ambition that both the Scottish Government and the UK Government have shown in terms of ambition and by setting targets should definitely be applauded. We are sitting in a world-leading situation with our governments making these legally binding.

We're really proud to say that we have now nearly three-quarters of our energy demand being made by renewables however there is still a long way to go and policy must be revisited to help progress this. Offshore winds are incredibly complex set of projects and the amount of support that needs to go into them to ensure that they are successful is continuous.

Glasgow is playing host to COP26 this November - what do you think the tone of the summit will be?

COP26 is a fantastic showcase opportunity and there's a lot resting on this year’s summit, around leveling the playing field between oil and gas and renewables in particular. We need to make sure we get the correct frameworks in place that will drive investment into the right place and push that acceleration of the energy transition.

It would be a good time to look at more localised policies and explore opening up that pipeline with the UK Government for onshore winds. We are also looking at leasing in Scotland and trying to make sure that's as frictionless as possible, to enable deployment of renewables.

It will also be an opportunity for us to talk about the wider issues and about what energy transition and going net-zero actually means as there is a huge behavioral change required.

You talked about behavioral change. What should we be doing differently?

As an individual, there are three key things that you need to think about when considering your own carbon footprint: it's down to how you travel on a day to day basis to your choice of diet and some less obvious aspects.

We had welcome news last week from Microsoft about going carbon neutral, but they also need to accept that it's not just about investing in technology, they need to educate people about the carbon footprint of data, and how it should be used more wisely.

One of the academics we spoke to as part of our research said that the government shouldn't move too quickly, as economically it may not be viable. What are the constraints on tackling climate change?

One of the key constraints is that not only are we trying to deal with climate change, there's also a huge conversation about the limitations of capitalism and what is delivered in terms of economic growth. Having to deal with all of this alongside the technology revolution causes great constraints.

I also see one of the potential limitations being global geopolitics which is shifting beyond recognition.

The Scottish Government has committed to carbon neutrality by 2045 – what challenges does that raise for Scotland's oil and gas industry?

One of the key things we need to work out is what the energy mix looks like. There's a lot of discussion around hydrogen, carbon capture, utilisation and storage. However the committee for climate change has said that economically this is not an option.

We need to find solutions that are low carbon and renewable rather than just offsetting - it's not just about changing behaviors. The oil and gas industry come with huge resources and investment capability for large scale complex renewable projects. We are working with the industry and see them as a key partner and being a big part of the solution. 

This links into the transition piece – we have 17,700 people working in Renewables and 110,000 in Oil & Gas. We have to manage this and make sure that people are at the heart of the energy transition as that renewable technology develops.

How optimistic should we be about the green jobs revolution?

The best message that we can give to the rest of the world is that you can have an energy transition while keeping a stable economy and managing those jobs as you go along with it.

If you would like to hear the full conversation, listen to our podcast with Claire Mack and Phil Crag, consultant from Deloitte’s public sector team here.

Learn more about our State of the State report, and find out what our other guest speakers said on the report’s key themes here

 

Claire Mack, Chief Executive, Scottish Renewables

Claire has been Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, the representative voice of Scotland’s renewable energy industry, since October 2017. She is responsible for leading the organisation’s work to grow Scotland’s renewables sector and sustain its position at the forefront of the global clean energy industry.

Claire is a member of the First Minister’s Energy Advisory Board and the Renewables Industry Advisory Group, co-chaired by Scotland’s Energy Minister.

Before joining Scottish Renewables, Claire was Director of Policy and Place at the Scottish Council for Development and Industry and led on telecoms, spectrum and postal issues.

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Key contact

Ed Roddis

Ed Roddis

Director

Ed researches government and the public sector for Deloitte. His responsibilities include producing thought leadership including The State of the State, our annual report on government. Ed’s background is in communications and government relations for public sector organisations covering public financial management, education and local government sectors.