The publicity around the still as yet realised concept of the ETZ zone continued, even before the PLDP had gone to the vote. In early January 2020 at the Oil and Gas UK Maximising Energy Steering Group meeting in Aberdeen the UK Oil and Gas Chairman enthused about what has now become “The Energy Transition Zone”, part of the “transformative deal” for the oil and gas sector in the Conservative Party December 2019 Election manifesto.
On 24th January Sir Ian Wood unveils “the transformative world leading Energy Transition zone" in the “region of the new harbour, capitalising on energy transition with the potential to create thousands of jobs". Putting the city in the “forefront of clean green energy technologies of hydrogen, offshore wind and carbon capture and storage". There is no funding at the time of writing for the ETZ, but Sir Ian is envisages “tough“ leverage from the private sector and "public purse”, and the potential for “thousands of jobs”(citation for source of these jobs has yet to materialise) which had not been forgotten either. Many organisations made similar claims extolling the zone’s role the urgent transition to a decarbonised economy in the light of the climate crisis: Oil and Gas industry press, ONE, Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeen Harbour Board, Oil and Gas UK and the Oil and Gas Authority.
Others though were more guarded: Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse, was rather less certain, using the word “could”, Oil and Gas Technology Centre, Offshore Renewable Catapult, Scottish Enterprise and Robert Gordon’s University referring to Energy Transition more generally. Whilst Dick Winchester of the Scottish Government Energy Advisory Board was openly sceptical of the ETZ’s future achievements, describing it as a property development exercise “Take any building in Aberdeen, empty it and call it an Energy Transition Zone. I can’t get excited about it, it’s the same in Dundee".
From the information provided, the venture is at the very most, highly speculative. Promises for a large number of renewable jobs made over the last 10 years have not been met across all of Scotland. For example: the 28,000 direct jobs in offshore wind industry by 2020 promise, made in the Scottish Government’s low carbon strategy of 2010. The current estimate for that target is 1700.
One reason is there are a range of other locations where wind turbine manufacture is already taking place and where expertise has been developed, and there has been no compunction for developers to use local supply chains. Neither are the vague measures, which do not set a minimum proportion of local work, described in the ScotWind licensing document likely to change anything. The expectation that an operator who gains a licence in the current Crown Estate round of bids for sites E1, E2 and E3 near Aberdeen would choose to manufacture turbines in the ETZ because it is close to the site has not been born out by recent experience. The latest example of what has become a consistent pattern being the award of contract for all 114 turbines at the Scottish and Southern Energy Sea green array very close to Bifan to Texas based firm Fluor corporation on the basis of their lower tender, achieved by subcontracting work out to firma in China and the United Arab Emirates. This was announced on the 18th September 2020.
Having received the final version of the feasibility study on 24th February just 9 days before the full council was to vote on the PLDP, the administration found the claims in the feasibility study and the surrounding publicity at the turn of the year irresistible , so voted to reject ( 19 against, 18 for) an opposition amendment to remove OP56 and 61 (the designations for St. Fittick's Park and Doonie's Farm) from the plan Which was made on the premise of the feasibility studies alternative option (scenario 6) that would enable the city to have an Energy Transition Zone and retain these highly valued areas of green belt and green space, by one vote The PLDP was now the “settled will of the Council” and the ETZ concept had the blessing of the council administration.
The argument was never about whether Aberdeen should move to a green economy, that was accepted as absolutely essential because of the decline in the Oil and Gas industry after the collapse of the oil price in 2014. This was also due to the imperative of reducing carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. It was that there should be an ETZ, but not the ETZ advocated for in the feasibility study that destroyed the local wetland and community park.