Harnessing just a fraction of Scotland’s potential offshore energy could meet electricity demand seven times over, according to a new report.
The study − billed as the first full economic valuation of Britain’s offshore renewable resource − said the sector shows similar promise to the fledgling oil and gas industry of the 1970s.
The UK has the potential to transform from a net energy importer to a producer by 2050, the Offshore Valuation Group report found.
By then, the net value to firms capturing just under one third of Scottish potential is estimated at £14 billion in electricity sales.
Group chairman Tim Helweg-Larsen said: “In the same way that investment in North Sea oil and gas infrastructure enabled the country to access a vast stock of hydrocarbon energy resources, large scale investment in offshore renewables could open up access to a permanent energy flow.
“This flow is of a comparable scale to current oil and gas production in the same area of sea.”
The equivalent of 1 billion barrels of oil can be generated in electricity across the UK each year, matching North Sea oil and gas production, the report found.
Carbon dioxide reductions of 1.1 billion tonnes would be achieved over the four decades and 145,000 jobs could be created.
The report estimated Scotland’s total “offshore resource” at 206 gigawatts. The Scottish Government said using 29% of projected resources will meet seven times the current demand.
The findings were announced as Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead opened a consultation on developing offshore wind energy projects.
Proposals include 10 offshore sites identified by the Crown Estate.