Marketing Scotland’s new energy future

In the immediate years before setting up my PR consultancy, I was responsible for marketing and promotion at the development organisation for the North East of Scotland.

It was the second decade of North Sea oil and our focus was to project the potential of the industry, the benefits of the area as a base and to build the foundations for an upstream oil centre that is now second only to Houston in Texas.

Somehow these messages are just not getting across these days. Outside Aberdeen the perception seems to be that North Sea oil and gas is history.

Far from it. The North Sea still provides 75% of the UK’s prime energy needs and supports 500,000 quality jobs throughout the UK. By 2020 it is reckoned that 60% of our oil and 100% of our domestic gas will still come from the UK sector of the North Sea.

In pre-banking-crisis times the government were happy to fete the financial institutions. But, there was precious little recognition for the industry that lit our lights, heated our homes and fuelled our transport. That despite the estimates that the North East of Scotland generates more company tax than London’s famous Square Mile!

At the last week’s All Energy exhibition in Aberdeen, the talk was that the impending marine renewables boom could even rival the oil boom.

Marine renewables could, according to a report released at the exhibition, provide seven times Scotland’s power needs. Translated into oil terms, by 2050, the UK could be exporting energy equivalent of a billion barrels of oil per year.

The added bonus is that marine energy, unlike oil, is not finite.

The oil industry has demonstrated the benefit of the geographical clustering of technology companies. The cross fertilisation of ideas and technology is what has made Aberdeen a global technology centre.

It is important, I believe, that the same sort of clustering benefits marine renewables and the logical place is the city which has the track record in marine and subsea engineering, along with an energy-savvy workforce and established expertise.

Marketing will be crucial in realising this potential. We need to project the UK, and Aberdeen in particular, as Europe’s Energy Capital.

There also has to be investment in infrastructure.

  • Aberdeen is still 87 miles away from the motorway network. The first break in a dual carriageway network reaching the as far as the south of Italy is, symbolically, as you drive into Europe’s Energy Capital!
  • It still takes almost three hours by train from the Central Belt.
  • International flight connections from Aberdeen Airport to energy centres around the world need to be established and enhanced.

  • Governments need to break old habits and start investing in success.
IoD Scotland magazine

This article is published in the IoD Scotland magazine summer 2010

We also need to project the image of Aberdeen as a place to do business. A place where the quality of life matches the opportunity. The ammunition is there. Mercer has just published a survey that ranks Aberdeen, second only to London in the UK and ahead of international cities like Rome, Houston, Dubai and Hong Kong, for quality of life.

Aberdeen’s forefathers took bold decisions to develop the city in the early days of the 19th Century. Where would we be if they had not had the audacious vision of a new main street on a wide, grand viaduct to the west? It opened up the whole of the west end of the Granite City.

In a similarly bold move, Aberdeen City Council has just approved the raising of Union Terrace Gardens to provide Aberdeen with a new £140 million civic heart, part funded by a £50 million offer from Sir Ian Wood.

Meanwhile, just ten miles north, Donald Trump is investing £1 billion in what he promises will be the “world’s greatest links golf course”. Where he goes, others will follow.

Together, these developments will help to put Aberdeen firmly on the national and international map. We must use that opportunity, to market the opportunities that marine renewables present to us.

In a few years’ time it will be great to able to report that renewables are either adding to, or replacing, the £35 billion that the oil and gas industry currently contributes to the UK balance of trade.

© Ken McEwen Public Relations, 2010.
No unauthorised reproduction without full acknowledgement of source. All rights reserved.

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