Alternative approaches to renewable energy

Last week Glasgow hosted All Energy the UK’s largest renewable energy exhibition and conference, at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre. The event was held in association with the Renewable Energy Association, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Enterprise, Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group and host city Glasgow. It featured more than 400 exhibitors from 14 countries including Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Indonesia, Italy, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the US as well as all parts of the UK.

The Society for Underwater Technology was the show’s Learned Society Patron, while UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) is All-Energy’s Key International Trade Partner. A further 40 organisations including government departments, professional bodies and trade associations acted as supporters of the two-day annual event.

As well as the exhibitors floor there was several seminars and workshops taking place over the course of the conference with over four hundred and fifty prominent members of the renewable energy industry giving talks. One of who was Scottish Power’s chief corporate officer Keith Anderson who stated “Whoever makes-up the new government here in Scotland, I hope that they will work with us and the UK government to find common ground and a way forward for renewables.

“Yes, we need more flexibility from Westminster to allow the continued development of onshore wind,” he continued. “That doesn’t mean asking for subsidy and it can’t involve trying to embarrass the government into backing down from existing statements or policy. But it does require us to work with them to find a way of creating some clarity and framework for investment.”

He also spoke of the need for a new energy storage strategy with electricity generated by renewable sources being lost due to poor storage capacity. “The most pressing issue is the fact that the world simply does not have enough capacity to store electricity. Again, we are not asking for subsidy to invest in electricity storage. But we do need a government policy that would support our investment. And I see this as an ideal way of finding common ground between Holyrood and Westminster.”

Also speaking at the event was Sir Jim McDonald, principal and vice chancellor at the University of Strathclyde and co-chair of the Scottish Government’s Scottish Energy Advisory Board. He suggested that 2015 has not been a good year due the UK government’s changes to renewable energy policy.

“There was a commitment to nuclear in the long-term and gas in the short-term, but no clear signal for investment, particularly in Scotland. No large-scale onshore wind support and a large reduction in support for solar. There was also an end to the Green Deal (a government subsidy scheme for home insulation) and the cancellation of the zero carbon homes requirement. With colleagues from the Scottish Government, we’ve now started to think about an alternative approach.”

These include reducing heat demands with better insulated homes, promoting low carbon fuels, new energy storage facilities and smart technology to help maximise renewable energy use.

Finally on a positive note Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association, said the sector had grown from a “cottage industry” ten years ago and was now “standing on the precipice of delivering energy cheaper than fossil fuels.”

In other Scottish renewable energy news researchers at Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University have been awarded £200,000 to help establish integrated renewable energy systems in Indonesia. Led by Dr Alan Owen and Dr Leuserina Garniati the Centre for Understanding Sustainable Practice (Cusp) team at Robert Gordon University has been awarded £100,000 through the UK Government’s Newton Fund Institutional Links programme with a further £100,000 from Indonesian government agencies and local non-governmental organisations.

Working in remote coastal and rural areas of Indonesia alongside the Strategic Resources Initiative Office in Indonesia, Universitas Syiah Kuala, and the Agency of Marine and Fisheries Affairs in Aceh, West Nusa Tenggara, and West Papua for the past five years they have helped increase innovation in the country as well as establishing a range of renewable energy options in remote areas.

Dr. Owen said: “Our onsite observations and intensive stakeholder engagement has shown that remote communities in Indonesia have not yet fully embraced the use of sustainable energy technology within locally driven business practices.

“What we hope to do is contribute to the economic development and social welfare of these communities by creating a step change towards appropriately designed and managed sustainable energy systems for maritime productivity.

“To do this, we will look to demonstrate the successful integration of renewable energy systems; apply the appropriate technology; embed training programmes to meet community aspirations; and initiate business models that can create wider benefits.”

One example of this is a project in Aceh where using renewable energy to circulate and aerate water in prawn farms as well as providing electricity to the freezing and packaging facilities has helped provide a high quality product while maintaining low costs. At the same time using locally generated renewable energy reduces pressure on sensitive coastal ecosystems.

Speaking about the project Dr. Garniati said “It is an honour to be able to work in Aceh and learn from their traditional knowledge. Recovering from decades of conflict, military oppression, and a major natural disaster, the Acehnese’ social dynamic and determination for a better future is an inspiration to driving a change.

“We hope that this work will bring positive impact for the farmers and fishermen who are often displaced from their own lands, and give confidence to policy makers that such an initiative can work even in the most challenging environment.”

It is encouraging to see Scottish skills being used is positive ways around the globe and also a timely reminder with Sir Jim McDonald’s words in mind about needing to find alternatives that renewable energy and carbon reductions is not exclusively wind and solar farms.

Although prawn farming is a only tiny part of the U.K. economy it is a perfect example of what can benefit greatly from alternative renewable energy practices. Almost all forms of agriculture and industry in this country can benefit from smart renewable energy solutions and even if the advantage to one particular project is small, when combined with several others the potential benefits would be just what we need to create a low carbon, cleaner, safer, energy secure environment.

 

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