SCOTLAND needs a 50-year strategy for the energy sector – the heart of the economy which is crucial to leading and sustaining our future success, according to the country’s business leaders.

The Sustaining Growth, Supporting Business campaign by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) has set out what it believes should be the key priorities for businesses over the next five years.

SCC has called for action to help firms compete and deliver economic growth across the energy sector – from oil and gas to electricity generation and transmission infrastructure, to the potential of renewable energy sources.

Liz Cameron, SCC’s chief executive said: “Energy is what enables every part of our economy to flourish and the various components of the sector are huge economic contributors in their own right.

“From a strategic point of view, it is vital that Scotland, and indeed the United Kingdom, develops a coherent energy plan for the future over a 50-year period.

“That level of forward planning is essential if businesses are to have the confidence to make investment decisions and would put an end to recent uncertainty in the sector due to fundamental changes in policy such as the UK Government’s decision to shift the goalposts on renewable energy policy following the 2015 General Election.

“Scotland already has a significant installed capacity of wind energy infrastructure, but the future of this industry will be dictated by the development of new technologies to store excess electricity production for use at times of peak demand.”

She added: “Scotland has the potential to become a world leader in this area, with the right investment, helping to increase the efficiency and lower the costs of renewable energy as well as rooting skills and talent in Scotland.

“This market is worth an estimated £1.5 billion, with the opportunity to create 5,500 new jobs in 30 locations across Scotland.

“The next Scottish Government will have a role to play in this agenda with its responsibilities for renewable energy, planning policy and a range of business taxes.

“It can help to create a better environment for investment in energy solutions, including small scale energy generation and energy saving methods in commercial properties.”

Cameron’s comments were echoed by the environmental group WWF Scotland, whose director Lang Banks said: “The next Scottish Government must focus on setting out a clear strategy for our energy future. That strategy must embrace renewable energy as well as action to reduce our overall energy demand if we are to secure the maximum benefits of becoming the EU’s first fully renewable electricity nation by 2030.

“Independent research has shown that it is possible for Scotland to have a secure, efficient electricity system, based on almost entirely renewable electricity generation, by 2030. Embracing that vision would maximise the opportunities to create new jobs, empower communities and support local economic renewal throughout the country.”

In its submission, SCC said the development of Scotland’s energy industry had to build on the strengths and skills of the oil, gas and renewable sectors.

The 50-year strategy – in partnership with the UK Government – would help reflect the maturity of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) and the global reach of supply chain companies that had a long-term role to play in maximising added value to the economy.

Smaller business wanted to play a role in Scotland’s transition to a low carbon economy by reducing consumption and investing in ways to keep down costs – and this behaviour should be incentivised through planning and tax.

There should also be investment to enable Scotland to become a leading centre for the design and application of energy storage solutions, a market worth an estimated £1.5 billion with the opportunity to create more than 5,000 jobs across the country.