All-Energy 2011

All Energy 2011

All-Energy 2011

All-Energy 2011. Well now that the dust has settled, business cards filed, follow up emails and phone calls scheduled, it’s interesting to reflect on one of the largest renewable energy events. It was the biggest ever for Highlands and Islands companies, biggest ever for HIE, and from a quick initial review of business impacts, big for renewables business.

The thing that struck me walking through the door on the first morning was ties. Neck ties. Unlike almost all other renewable energy events I’ve ever attended, the overwhelming dress code was dark suit and tie. It was almost like walking into an accountants’ convention. Long gone are the days when All-Energy was the domain of Aberdeenshire farmers in tweed jackets, and earnest young men with long hair and corduroy trousers. Renewable energy is now mainstream, it’s big business, it’s international, and Scotland is at the forefront. Canada, the Basque Country, Austria, all had huge stands, as did almost all the UK’s major energy players. (Continued after the video)

All-Energy 2011 – HI-Energy pavilion DVD

The sheer size and scale of the event exuded confidence and opportunity, perhaps buoyed by the new Scottish Government’s dramatic targets for energy in Scotland – 100% of renewable energy demand in Scotland being met by renewable energy by 2020, just in case you have been out the country for the past three months. Yet not everyone I met was enthusiastic about the potential for renewable energy as part of the Scottish energy mix. At one session at which I spoke (about the potential benefits of renewables for the Highlands and Islands) there were a number of dissenting voices, primarily from long established energy academics, and older engineers from the oil industry. They seemed a little disgruntled, indeed put out by this new focus on energy, and not at all happy that politicians have put renewable energy at the heart of quite a different agenda.

However it is remarkable how few these voices are. There are of course questions. Indeed, Sir Iain Wood used his All-Energy talk to voice concern over the timescale of the ambition, and industry bodies such as Scottish Engineering have concerns about the energy mix put forward for the 2020 targets. However given that the Scottish electricity industry is working so closely with the Government on this one, indeed working directly with the First Minister on a one-to-one basis. You would have thought that, if there was a problem, they would have raised a few concerns about the lights going out in 2020 by now.

They haven’t. And judging by the drive and enthusiasm seen in the Scottish renewable energy sector, exemplified by All-Energy 2011, there are a lot more young engineers solving the generation and distribution issues around wind, wave and tidal energy than sceptical older gentlemen who have built their careers around traditional energy sources.

It’s worth remembering that the great Lord Kelvin predicted in a 1902 newspaper interview that “No balloon and no aeroplane will ever be practically successful.” I like to compare that with the underlying philosophy of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one that HIE sees through its strategic relationship with one of the world’s greatest technology Universities; “If you want to know what the future will be like, invent it yourself.” Judging from All-Energy, the future is renewable energy, and Scotland and the Highlands and Islands are at the heart of creating that future.

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