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.

 

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