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Scotland's forward-thinking message on renewables

Posted By Maf Smith, 04 December 2015
Updated: 15 March 2016
Last night, Scottish Renewables hosted its 14th Scottish Green Energy Awards in Edinburgh. I need to confess I’ve always had a soft spot for the event, having been there right at the start and being one of a small team who established and grew the awards in the early 2000s.

Today the Awards are a major enterprise in their own right, and it’s remarkable to see their scale. That shows you how far we have come, and how important Scotland is to the renewable industry. Renewables can now provide a quarter of UK power needs. In Scotland they provide 50%. That’s a major achievement delivered over the last 15 or so years, and tracked faithfully by this awards dinner.

Now I spend most of my time outside of Scotland what I value about the Awards is how well they remind you of the positive differences being made. As one of the judges for the Awards themselves, I’ve been part of the discussions about shortlisted projects, and who should be the winner we select. It’s a real privilege, because it brings you back to what we are here for: making a positive difference to people’s lives and our environment.

Let’s take just a few examples from last night’s winners. First how about Beinn Ghrideag wind farm? It’s the UK’s largest community owned wind farm, and the Point and Sandwick community in the Western Isles worked for 10 years on their project. The scheme has been generating since September, and has already earmarked £700,000 of funding to a local hospice, energy efficiency, young people and arts and culture. It’s a great example of how renewable energy can help secure the economic future of such communities.

Or Green Marine and Leask Marine; two companies jointly given the Award for Best Supplier. Both companies are based in Orkney and have grown to serve the hugely important wave and tidal sector now present around those islands. There is a huge pride in these family firms building a future from our industry, and developing world class expertise at the same time.

Or Sgurr Energy, one of Scotland’s most successful renewable energy companies. Sgurr was started by Ian Irvine and Steve McDonald back in 2002, and they won the Best New Business back at the 2004 Awards. Now they have won for Export Achievement. As an employer with over 250 staff working around the globe, it wasn’t surprising that Ian Irvine wasn’t there to collect the award, being away in China hard at work.

My personal favourite award was the Judges Award which went to Highlands and Islands Enterprise. HIE are 50 years old this year so it was an appropriate time to celebrate all that they do for our industry. As an enterprise body they show the very best of the public sector; always wanting to push things on, find ways to tackle problems and make a difference to communities and businesses across northern Scotland. At RenewableUK we see many great examples of work by local enterprise partnerships and other agencies, but HIE remains something special. If the UK Government could drink from the HIE water cooler for just one day, imagine the difference it could make.

I write this because HIE has shown that partnership matters. Industry and public bodies working together with a common purpose to bring economic, social and environmental benefits. For HIE, renewable energy is an obvious choice as an economic opportunity given the fantastic resource there. But many seem oblivious to what renewable energy has helped us achieve.

Perhaps I can end with a simple example to illustrate how Scotland gets it, whereas others seem clueless. Today the GMB’s Chief Paul Kenny was in The Sun bemoaning wind energy and saying that “nuclear and gas are the only shows in town”. His figures don’t stack up by the way, but what he doesn’t seem to get is that there is employment to be had from development of gas, nuclear and renewables. His Scottish colleagues seem to get this however. At the same time as Paul was complaining loudly in The Sun, his Scottish colleagues were arguing that fabrication jobs for a new generation of floating offshore wind farms should come to Scottish yards. So Scottish union reps are doing their bit to fight for new jobs in Scotland. Their colleagues in their London offices are doing their bit to chase these jobs away.

Put like that it's simple isn’t it. Renewables are an opportunity. Anyone looking to pass that up would do well to put their name down for a place at next year’s Scottish Green Energy Awards and see first-hand how this is an opportunity already delivering and making many people proud.

Tags:  Green Energy Awards  Scottish Renewables 

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