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Climate / The challenge of our time

A new video, to be premiered this week, documents some of the innovative new energy projects from Shetland in the north to Whitelee outside Glasgow

WITH one of the most important international summits ever held due to get underway in Glasgow, a new documentary is giving some of the people behind Scotland’s emerging energy landscape a voice as the race to reach net zero intensifies.

The documentary The Challenge of our Time, to be premiered at COP26, is the brainchild of Shetlander Hannah Mary Goodlad who was joined by five colleagues – Craig Cuthbertson, Daniel Gear, Michael Howie, Anna Maclaren and Andrew Tillie – this summer to tour the country and speak to the many passionate young professionals behind the energy revolution.

Goodlad, who heads up the Baltic Sea renewables development at Norwegian energy firm Equinor, said the project was undertaken by the Energy Institute to promote STEM subjects at school and thus, hopefully, encourage more young people into the energy industry

Hannah Mary Goodlad.

The 31-year-old said that despite greenhouse gases hitting new records she was “cautiously optimistic” about the prospect of COP26 becoming a success.

“I think there is a sense of urgency now that has never been there before,” she said.

“This is our last chance to move, and we need for the negotiations to go above what we expect, to set the bar as high as we can and be prepared to find compromise in as many areas as we can. I believe the delegates are deeply aware of this.”

After pulling together hundreds of hours of footage from visiting new energy projects across the country this summer, a powerful political theme emerged.

It became clear, she said, that a lot of the technology to solve the climate crisis is already available, but also that technology alone is not sufficient to achieve the changes that are needed in response to the climate crisis.

“Technology and innovation can only ever take us so far,” she said, adding that “it is other elements of the human make-up such as behaviour, education and policies that needed a radical shake-up for net zero to be reached.

“These three themes are powerful, and they are very powerful when you combine them. We believe that a lot of the technology is there, and it is the other stuff that is missing.

“That behavioural change requires us to dig deep, and that is the thing that is often underestimated.

“On a planet such as ours with finite resources and finite boundaries, the concept of open ended and unchecked exponential growth just doesn’t match and cannot marry up.

‘I believe that’s the crunch point humanity has now started to realise: the exponential trajectory that we have been on isn’t sustainable.”

The group started their journey in Shetland where they spoke to Angus Grains of North Fish (Shetland), a company that provides heat and electricity from biomass to commercial customers, before venturing to Orkney to visit Orbital Marine Power, which had just commissioned the world’s most powerful tidal turbine.

Moving on they visited the Beatrice offshore wind farm off the Caithness coast, the Nigg energy park, Equinor’s floating wind farm off Aberdeen and the Acorn carbon capture project, which earlier this month was unsuccessful in attracting government funds.

Goodlad said she wanted to showcase the best of what was happening in Scotland in the run up to COP26, vital to make the point that the energy industry was “rolling up its sleeves”, reassign skills, technology, and capital to solve the energy challenge.

“This is not just greenwashing; this is sincere and comes from a place of deep responsibility.

“The energy industry holds many of the answers that we will need to tap into to reach NetZero,” she insisted and added that as committed environmentalist she felt inspired to be working in the energy industry because this is where real change is happening.

Hannah Mary Goodlad and Daniel Gear, business manager at energy logistics firm Peterson.

“And that story isn’t being told enough, and it is the story that we wanted to showcase,” the geologist said.

She added that having grown up in Shetland it had equipped her with an appreciation that nature and industry can work together to contribute to the success of a community.

Shetland did this remarkably well with oil and gas and similar opportunities were available in renewables, she said, but to achieve these the community needs to be more ambitious and better organised to demand what Shetland needs from the energy revolution in terms of local content, jobs and revenue streams.

The Challenge of our Time will be premiered at COP26 on Wednesday 3 November followed by a TED-style presentation and a panel discussion with senior industry leaders to be livestreamed at: https://www.energyinst.org/whats-on/search/events-and-training?meta_eventId=2111COP26 

The 30 minute documentary will be available YouTube after the event.