Since we held our Networks Vision Summit, the world has changed dramatically as we found ourselves in front of unprecedented circumstances and a global health emergency. In this new reality we all face, priorities have changed and new policy and regulatory developments came into place. However, the discussions that took place during the Networks Vision Summit event are still valid as our energy networks are now more critical than ever to Scotland's net zero ambitions, and to our desire to see a green economic recovery from the current crisis.
Our Energy Networks Summit raised a number of key themes for the sector. Stakeholders clearly feel that there are several issues that need to be addressed by the main parties involved – government, regulator and the gas and electricity network sector. I have spoken and written many times about the influence that these networks will have in helping Scotland to meet our decarbonisation targets, and the need to ensure that our shift to a decarbonised energy system involves a just transition – one that supports a strong green economic revolution.
Although this is a reserved sector, for which the UK Government is ultimately responsible, it is clearly vital to Scotland's economic, social and environmental priorities. That's why we have, over recent years, been working increasingly closely with Ofgem and with Scotland's energy network companies to ensure that decisions on changes to these reserved structures are flexible enough to recognise and support Scotland's distinct circumstances and ambitions. We laid this out in more detail last year within our Vision for Scotland's Gas and Electricity Networks, highlighting the importance of partnership work.
I am therefore pleased to see that the four recommendations emerging from this Summit underline that need for the key players to work together, and to develop the evidence and shared understandings which will help direct and support the energy network companies themselves, as well as the users of those networks across Scotland. There is already work underway which I believe can address each of these issues, and which I will ensure takes these recommendations fully into account.
For example, I would like to highlight that the Scottish Energy Networks Strategic Leadership Group recently agreed to take forward the development of Scottish Energy Scenarios, in-line with recommendation 1.
Through our Electric Vehicles (EV) Strategic Partnership, established in August last year, the Scottish Government, including Transport Scotland, is working with Scotland's electricity distribution network operator companies to explore new ways of coordinating the development and delivery of electric vehicle charging and electricity network infrastructure, to ensure efficient investment and a fair distribution of costs across electricity consumers. We are also working on ways to ensure that our electricity and gas networks can support the decarbonisation of heat, in line with our 2030 interim target to reduce GHG emissions by 75% and our 2045 net zero targets– the development of a Heat Decarbonisation Policy Statement will set out our vision for heat in buildings and the actions needed to support delivery. Our commitment to produce an action plan for the development of a Hydrogen Economy will consider the potential for our gas networks to support large scale decarbonisation of industrial processes. These, and other pieces of work, will go towards delivering on recommendation 2.
Our upcoming Local Energy Policy Statement, and our ambition to ensure that Local Authorities across Scotland produce Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategies, will help us respond to recommendation 3.
Finally, we are committed to ensuring that everyone in Scotland is able to benefit from our energy transition. Our Climate Change legislation contains a set of just transition principles which will ensure that fairness is central to future plans to reduce emissions. This commitment is also highlighted through our support for an independent Just Transition Commission, our focus on a green new deal and our commitment to eradicate fuel poverty. These workstreams are consistent with recommendation 4, and will remain so as we make further progress over the coming months.
Paul Wheelhouse MSP,
Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands