Renewable Energy: Global awareness shows local value

“EconValue – The Socio-economic Benefits of Solar and Wind Energy” a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) states that renewable energy, and in particular onshore wind and solar, if properly adopted, could create better-paying jobs, improve international trade balances, and promote industrial development around the world. It also claims that fears of widespread job loss and other economic distress as a result of recent decisions by many governments to set caps on carbon emissions are unwarranted.

The report looks at the “macroeconomic variables” of how renewable energy developments affect as well as the environment, the economy and society as a whole. These variables include how installing and maintaining renewable energy projects affect everything from jobs to gross domestic product.

The report also shows political leaders how to exploit opportunities offered by renewable energy through investment in these technologies, as well as training new workers and researching improvements in the technologies.

“As many economies are still recovering from the global financial crisis, renewable energy offers an opportunity to grow economies, improve energy security, enhance energy access, and mitigate climate change,” stated IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin.

“Policymakers around the world are exploring ways to stimulate social and economic growth through the renewable energy sector, and this report is an important step to support them on this path,” he added.

The EconValue report was issued before President Obama’s June 2 announcement of new regulations aimed at reducing U.S. carbon emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. One day later, China said it would begin to impose unspecified cuts in carbon emissions in 2016.

One often mentioned objection to the cutting of carbon omissions is that any such plan will also lead to a reduction in jobs and a weakening of the economy especially in areas with large coal and other carbon based industries.

Although the EconValue Report does concede that employment in these industries will be reduced this will be offset by the introduction of renewable energy jobs. Added benefits include improved public health from lower air pollution, lower energy costs and less stress on the electricity grid.

Previously we have discussed the positive impact renewable energy offers over and above the clean energy it provides. It is encouraging the see this now being demonstrated on a global scale as progressive education needs to reach as wide an audience as possible, ensuring that future generations are aware of the benefits renewable energy gives both globally and locally.

Closer to home now and last weekend saw the Royal Highland Show, Scotland’s annual farming and countryside showcase at Ingilston showgrounds near Edinburgh. The show features livestock competitions, product exhibitions, music, and a vast array of food & drink stalls showcasing local produce.

After making its successful debut last year, this year’s event also saw the return of the renewable energy sector where developers, funders, law firms, and all associated with the industry can make use of the space to enhance their profile within the farming community.

Related organisations are given a platform to show how they use renewable energy to enhance their business model and this year trade body Scottish Renewables highlighted twelve agri-businesses using technologies such as wind, solar, biomass and hydro in its Made in Scotland From Renewables campaign.

Representatives include ice cream makers Mackies of Scotland who adopted wind power as an energy source to part run its dairy in 2005. Currently they have three turbines (with planning for a fourth) and more recently have also moved into solar power with 174kW of instillations on the roof of the farm buildings and planning for a 1.8mW solar farm on nearby land.

Finance director Gerry Stephens said: “Making ice cream uses a lot of energy, so we set out to make up for that by using renewables and we have become one of the greenest companies in the UK.”

The case studies for the campaign were compiled by East Coast Renewables, a group of five Scottish local authorities; Aberdeenshire, Angus, Fife, Perth & Kinross and East Lothian councils.

East Coast Renewables spokesman Ian Todd said: “In assembling these cases we were really impressed by the choice that exists. This evolution is really happening, with some farms using two or three different renewable technologies. We could easily have had many more such cases.”

Scottish Renewables chief executive Niall Stuart added: “This is a great initiative involving two modern-day Scottish success stories, renewable energy and the food and drink sector. I am delighted an increasing number of companies recognise the tremendous economic and environmental benefits from powering their businesses using renewable energy.

Also in the twelve and representing the Scottish classic porridge oats are Hamlyns of Scotland in Banffshire and The Oatmeal of Alford, which uses hydro-electricity to power its mill in Aberdeenshire. Farmlay Eggs in Strichen, Aberdeenshire, has an 800KW and a 350kw wind turbine and a 950KW biomass plant on site. Alderston Dairies in Haddington, East Lothian, installed an Endurance wind turbine in 2011 and then solar PV in 2012. Last year, it added a wood chip biomass boiler. Over Rankeilour Farms in Cupar, Fife, uses a wind turbine to power his cold stores and a biomass boiler to heat buildings.

Renewable energy is now a part of our farming community and it is playing a more significant role than ever before. The rural community relies on the environment for their livelihood and the use of renewable energy developments empowers them by giving the option to create their own sustainable, cost effective energy while protecting their environment at the same time.

The importance of the farming community cannot be underestimated. During difficult times which extend to before the current global financial situation and is likely to continue beyond, the positive contribution which renewable energy offers goes a long way to strengthening its future which is good news for all, those within the farming community and those that are not.

 

Renewable Energy Continues To Make Its Mark

BT has agreed a deal with EDF energy to purchase all of the energy required for its Scottish operations for 20 years from a new wind farm development in the Scottish Borders.  They will purchase 50% of the electricity produced by the 48 turbine Fallow Rig scheme north of the town of Lauder.

BT is a key consumer of electricity in Scotland, using around 170 Gigawatt hours per year and according to director Brendan Dick this deal secures long term price certainty for the company also stating that they were keen to secure its energy requirements in an “environmentally responsible way.”

Mr Dick said: “At BT we use the power of communications to make a better world.

“We’re as committed to reducing our own carbon emissions as we are to providing products and services that help everyone live within the planet’s resources.

“We have reduced carbon emissions from our operations by 25.5% globally during 2013/14.

“Our deal with Fallago Rig reinforces our commitment to make a positive contribution to society and the environment,” he added.

“It’s also a huge vote of confidence in Scottish renewable energy.”

The deal was also welcomed by Energy Minister Fergus Ewing.

He said: “It is great news for Scotland and the environment that a company the size of BT is taking a local and sustainable approach to sourcing its electricity in Scotland from renewable and low carbon sources.

“With EDF Energy and BT now sharing 100% of the energy produced by Fallago Rig, it also secures generation at the site for the long-term future and shows the importance of Scottish renewable energy to Scottish-based businesses and their customers.”

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks also welcomed the move as “good news”.

“If Scotland is to meet its climate change targets and decarbonise its power sector then we need to see more big companies follow BT’s example and opt for 100% renewable electricity,” he said.

“Better still, we’d like to see companies build and own their own wind turbines or solar farms.

“Doing so would create thousands of jobs and more quickly enable Scotland to reduce its reliance on polluting fossil fuels.”

Fallago Rig is one of the largest onshore wind farms in the UK. EDF Energy Renewables own a stake in the wind farm and will continue to manage the site by providing operations, maintenance services and asset management.

Businesses are now more than ever aiming to be carbon neutral so a deal like this should not come as a surprise although the scale of it is bigger than anything we have seen before in Scotland. We believe that this type of agreement will become more commonplace as more businesses look to show their green credentials.

This is positive for Scotland, for renewable energy, and for the planet.

There is also good news from the Crown Estate which has recently published two reports confirming that the UK offshore wind power sector is on course to double its capacity by 2020 to 10GW or more.

At the Global Offshore Wind conference 2014 the Crown Estate released the reports showing that progress made by the UK offshore wind sector means that it looks set to provide around 10 percent of the country’s electricity demand by 2020.

The main report highlighted the excellent level of continued growth within the sector while the second report ‘Sharing lessons learned and good practice in offshore transmission’ set out a route to cost reduction which will help unlock the sector’s potential.

Speaking at the conference UK energy minister Ed Davey said “The UK is the number one country in the world for offshore wind, supporting green jobs and growth as well as strengthening our energy security. We have already attracted over £30 billion worth of investment in renewable technologies since 2010. Our ambitious electricity market reforms provide investors with the long-term certainty they need.”

Head of Offshore Wind at The Crown Estate Huub den Rooijen, added that there have already been a number of significant milestones in 2014 for UK offshore wind development including the announcement of a total of £750 million of industry investment. The ‘Offshore Wind Operational Report 2014’ has also found that generation from offshore wind reached its highest level ever of 11.5TWh in 2013, representing 3.3 per cent of UK electricity demand or enough to power 2.7 million homes.

The report also includes updates on community engagement activities, measuring and understanding windiness, transmission and sustainability measures.

‘Sharing lessons learned and good practice in offshore transmission’ looks at a number of actions supported by the Crown Estate designed to help reduce costs and risk associated with developing the UK’s offshore renewable energy sector. The report outlines how the sector can take a more structured approach to the way in which knowledge is shared, including a proposed ‘knowledge hub’ for information sharing.

At ILI (Renewable Energy) we are about onshore wind, it is where our expertise lies and where we have achieved success. We believe however in a strong renewable energy mix and we appreciate that in Scotland we are fortunate that our environment provides us with the resources for various renewable energy solutions. It is encouraging to see these being utilised positively and believe we can continue to progress as the world strives to meet clean energy demands.

The Benefits of Onshore Wind

RenewableUK has published a guide to aid local businesses when it comes to tendering for contracts to construct, maintain, and supply the materials for onshore wind farms.

Local Supply Chain Opportunities in Onshore Wind – Good Practice Guide shows businesses each step of the development stages of an onshore wind farm, giving them a detailed insight on what is required and expected when bidding for contracts.

Case studies of successful projects also play a prominent role in the guide including the Fallago Rig wind farm development in Scotland which delivered a Gross Value Added of £18m to the UK economy and in the two year construction phase created more than 320 jobs.

The guide uses good examples to demonstrate how relevant businesses are increasing their presence locally early in the planning process of the pre-construction phase of wind farm developments. They may also raise awareness of the available opportunities by holding events locally for businesses as well as seeking partnerships with local authorities and business groups, and publishing their local spend.

Maria McCaffery, chief executive of RenewableUK, said onshore wind has proved “a powerhouse for economic growth,” stating that normally more than 60 per cent of the construction spend of a wind farm development is in the local area.

“The British onshore wind industry provides jobs for nearly 19,000 people – and we are determined to maximise the opportunities for local companies to get as big a slice of the economic action as possible,” she added. “We are providing work for a whole range of skilled workers involved in the planning, construction and maintenance of onshore wind farms, as well as those who support them – from hoteliers and taxi drivers to environmental experts.

“The economic injection that comes with each project can be repeated around the UK whenever an onshore wind farm is built, as a lifeline to local communities.”

The guide arrives in good time as wind farm developer Vattenfall recently announced that it has awarded multimillion-pound contracts to local firm Express Reinforcements, which will work on the turbine bases, and Wrexham based manufacturing company Prysmian Cables and Systems, for work on its seventy six turbine Pen y Cymoedd wind farm project in south Wales.

The 228 mW development is the largest onshore wind farm in England and Wales and developer Vattenfall said one year into an overall four year construction period, a total of £45m of contracts have been placed with Wales based businesses leading to over fifty companies and six hundred jobs in Wales being supported by the development. It is projected that the development will be worth up £1billion to the Welsh economy over it 25 year lifetime.

Piers Guy, Vattenfall’s director of onshore wind development in the UK said: “Every contract has been won on merit and it demonstrates that we have the enthusiasm, skills and supply chain capability here in Wales to help deliver the UK’s onshore wind potential.”

Sticking with Wales two 130m wind turbines have been installed in Oakdale, Caerphilly, the first commercial wind farm to be developed in co-operation with a Welsh local authority.

The turbines make up part of the Oakdale Business Park built on the former Oakdale Colliery. They are expected to power the equivalent of 2,400 homes per year and create an annual CO2 emissions saving of around 4,400 tonnes.

The 400 acre site was once a mine, in its heyday employing a workforce of 2000 however the decline in British coal mining led to its closure in 1989 after more than 81 years in operation. Alun Davies AM, Welsh minister for natural resources and food officially launched the project last week.

The project was the result of developer Partnerships for Renewables and Caerphilly County Borough Council working together. The council put no money into the development, with Partnerships for Renewables entering into a 25-year lease agreement with them to rent the land on which the two turbines are located. Partnerships for Renewables will also give £10,000 of funding per year to local projects as long as the wind farm is operating.

Councillor Ken James, cabinet member for regeneration, planning and sustainable development with Caerphilly, said: “Working with our partners and the wider community we have been able to embrace an alternative, more environmentally friendly way to produce energy.

“We are committed to making the Caerphilly County Borough a greener place to live, work and visit.”

This is the second installation Partnerships for Renewables has completed, following the launch of a site at Standford Hill prison in Kent last year. Stephen Ainger, chief executive of Partnerships for Renewables, said: “Onshore wind is not only the cheapest form of renewable energy but can deliver significant economic benefit to local communities.

“We hope our Oakdale scheme will act as a beacon for other public/private partnerships, helping Wales to deliver its renewable energy ambitions.”

Whilst the general public accept the positive affect that clean energy has on the economy, onshore wind can often be shown in a negative light by its detractors, leaving the public wondering other than the clean energy what else does it contribute positively?

Previously we demonstrated how local community projects, charities, and worthwhile causes are benefitting from onshore wind farm developments, and as shown above it goes beyond that, benefiting the local economy in several ways.

At a time of relative austerity many industries are cutting their skilled workforce however onshore wind is forging ahead offering qualified roles to the local employment market. Local businesses are benefiting from wind farm developments by way of sub-contracts from developers and local authorities are gaining revenue streams from joint ventures with developers.

If onshore wind only provided us with clean renewable energy then for some that would be worthwhile enough but it does much more good than that.

The Future of Energy

As populations continue to rise, the future of energy production is one issue that all governments must tackle. In the UK however we continue to depend upon expensive foreign imports of fossil fuels to fire our electricity power station generators. In 2012 over 60% of the electricity generated for the UK market was done so using imported fossil fuels. As the cost of importing these fuels is very hard to predict (other than they will go up) this is not good for our economy or fuel bills.

With ever reducing tariffs and a long drawn out and difficult planning process there is an impression in the UK that the days of new onshore wind developments are drawing to a close. This will no doubt please the advocates against renewable energy in general and onshore wind in particular. There is growing voice from within the Conservative party that wind farms are “at their peak.” This comes from the party that when were in opposition promised to lead the ‘greenest Government ever.’

Recently however, the Committee on Climate Change insisted that onshore wind still has role to play in cost-effective energy mix. Responding to a Times report suggesting UK “has enough wind turbines”, the Committee confirmed most cost-effective decarbonisation scenarios require more onshore wind energy through to 2030.

Although onshore wind is not the be all and end all when it comes to clean energy production it provides a solid base onto which a healthy mix of alternative energy supplies can be added. The technology is tested and the production of energy proven. It is also is less expensive to construct and maintain than its offshore brother.

Onshore wind is also continuing to provide for the surrounding community as well as the country on a whole. The Scottish town of Lesmahagow is in line for a substantial financial windfall after the Scottish Government passed plans for a new wind farm to be built near Strathaven.

The 26 turbine wind farm received the green light for the proposals from the Government’s Energy Consents Unit meaning the 104MW wind farm, run by Banks Renewables, will generate a community benefit fund of an estimated £11 million during its 25-year lifetime.
That money will help fund the long term development plans drawn up by Community Councils in Lesmahagow, Stonehouse, Strathaven and Sandford and Upper Avondale.

Banks Renewables’ director Colin Anderson was delighted to see the development get the go-ahead and bring real, substantial benefits to the community for generations to come.

“Millions of pounds in wind farm revenues will be available for the local communities to invest in the projects, groups and worthwhile causes most important to them” he stated.

It’s not just Lesmahagow that is benefitting in this way; throughout the UK local communities are seeing a tangible financial benefit from onshore wind. Whether it be funding available through Local Authority projects or direct to local charities and community organisations renewable energy production is providing much needed financial support.

Nationally onshore wind provides clean energy from a proven source, locally, a financial benefit to worthwhile causes. We are heading into a future where the topic of energy production will constantly be at the forefront of the issues of the day and we have an opportunity to leave a legacy of clean affordable energy for all. Our country has a wonderful natural resource in our wind and to utilise it fully would be right thing to do.