Team Blog

Keep up to date with the thoughts and actions of our team and our work in this challenging and exciting sector. We'll also have a number of interesting articles giving you more information about the industry.

So how what's the potential for renewables, anyway?

Posted by on Monday, April 8th, 2013

Last time I wrote a bit about the outlook for future global oil supplies. Let's try a similar exercise for renewables.

In 2010, we humans used fossil fuels at an annual rate of 400 EJ (1 exojoule = 10^18 joules), which is equivalent to about 13 TW (1 terawatt = 10^12 watts). In raw thermodynamic terms (ie ignoring the capital costs, and the fact that it takes energy to build and maintain the generating capacity), would renewables be able to replace this? A quick summary of the potential of wind, solar, hydro, wave, tidal, geothermal and biofuel (photosynthesis), based on a recommended book by Vaclav Smil's:


About 870 TW of solar radiation is transferred to global wind's kinetic energy (Peixoto & Oort, 1992). A recent study (Marvel, Kravitz & Caldeira, 2013) finds that, in terms of sheer geophysical potential, "wind turbines placed on Earth's surface could extract kinetic energy at a rate of at least 400 TW, whereas high-altitude wind power could extract more than 1,800 TW." Although that all sounds like a lot, the accessible energy 80m above ground is estimated to be in the range of 72 TW (Archer & Jacobson, 2005), but we need to bear in mind that turbines need to stand about 5 rotor diameters apart. Computer simulations of a world where accessible areas are covered by 100m tall 2.5 MW turbines with capacity factors of 20% conclude that it's possible to harnass a maximum of 78 TW (Lu McElroy & Kiviluoma, 2008). So that's about six times our current fossil fuel use. Hurrah for wind!


About 120 PW (1 pentawatt = 10^15 watts) of solar radiation reaches the biosphere, of which about 25 PW is absorbed by land. If we knock out excluded areas like polar- and steep mountain regions we're left with a usable flux of about 15 PW. So that's about a thousand times our current fossil fuel use. Hurrah for sun!


We at SCENE have mixed feelings about hydro. We love the small stuff, though! The total potential of Earth's runoff is about 10.5 TW, but only about 15% (WEC, 2007) of this is technically exploitable (before even taking the economics into account). Still, hurrah for small-scale hydro!


Wind-driven ocean waves have a kinetic energy of some 60 TW, only 3 TW of which is dissipated along coasts. Well, it's worth a try!


Tidal energy amounts to about 3 TW, of which only 60 GW is dissipated in coastal zones. Better than nothing, especially if you're miles away from the nearest electricity grid. Beats running a generator.


Earth's geothermal flux is on the order of 42 TW (Sclater, Jaupart & Galson, 1980), but mostly (like 80%) in the form of low-temperature diffuse heat on ocean floor which isn't going to help us out much. Some (Bertani, 2009) reckon that, by using steam, we can tap into 140 GW by 2050. Worth a try if you're lucky enough to live near a resource - just look at Iceland (cheapest electricity in the world!)

Biofuel (photosynthesis)

Terrestrial (= on land) photosynthesis proceeds at a rate of about 60 TW, about 3 TW of which currently gets used for energy. Hurrah for plants!

Next time, we'll start thinking about how much of this renewable resource is realistically available to power human lives.

Regional Studies Association Workshop - Community Energy for Development: Progress and Prospects

Posted by on Friday, April 5th, 2013

SCENE Director Jelte Harnmeijer and Student Researcher Ashton Whitcomb have recently returned from a two day community energy workshop at the Rhondda Heritage Park near Cardiff in Wales, organised by the Regional Studies Association and Cardiff Business School. The small, focused group of practitioners and researchers gathered somewhat ironically at the site of an old coal mine to discuss the latest developments and problems facing community energy in the UK. Some takeaway points from a few of the the talks follows:

Richard Cowell, Cardiff University - "Promoting community renewable energy in a corporate energy world: progress in the UK"

This talk focused on identifying viable pathways for small-scale community renewables to emerge in a centralised and corporate controlled market. It explored how devolved governments such as those of Northerm Ireland, Scotland and Wales might "foster niches or disrupt prevailing socio-technical regimes" that act as barriers to community energy expansion, as well as financial and planning support systems for community energy. He concluded that the momentum behind centralised, corporate energy systems has not diminished and the devolved governments have barely altered this fact. Furthermore it was suggested that while there is much additional room for communities to engage with developers and form joint ventures, these types of projects merely render community owned energy as a by-product of the established hierarchy, rather than fostering systemic change.

Jeremy Thorp, Sharenergy Co-op - "Practical experiences of setting up community renewable energy co-operatives"

Jeremy gave us a very detailed presentation of best practices learned on the job as (director?) of Sharenergy, a co-op that helps communities throughout the UK set up energy co-operatives. For PV, he found that they need to be 100kW or greater in order to be viable as a cooperative, and that its very important to be able to use the energy locally. He emphasised the importance of standard leases, as well as being aware of the procurement rules of local authorities. For micro-hydro, he warned that they typically take far longer than other community energy projects to set up, and that landowners may drop the project with little reasoning, so its critical to get landowner permission as early as possible. (Key differences btw high and low head??) When dealing with the Environment Agency, he noted that their dominant interest is in fisheries protection. For biomass, he said that, similarly to other renewables projects, getting a signed option agreement for a site is a critical first step that should always precede all other stages. In terms of interactions with clients and land owners, he emphasised that presenting a professional image is key, and to go into negotiations knowing exactly what you are offering. He also suggested that a co-op should always consider using local woodlands as a feedstock, in order to bring them into careful management and create more local employment. For wind turbines, which hold the largest potential for generating community income, he warned that one must be prepared to negotiate commercial rates, but that co-operatives can compete against commercial developers. He also mentioned that your project must have very large numbers of supporters on order to gain planning permission. Above all, Jeremy drove home the point that securing landholder agreements is the most important step in setting up energy co-operatives, and also the most common point of failure.

David Pickernell, University of Glamorgan - "Eyes wide shut? Sustainable energy supply industry reform: The Australian Experience"

Departing from the UK community energy theme a bit, David gave us a look at Australia's very challenging road ahead to carbon emissions reduction, given that it is sitting 18% higher than its Kyoto Protocol agreed level of emissions and possesses very large coal reserves. He explained how supply industry stakeholder engagement lock-ins or lockouts can enable or impede reforms in a so-called "triple helix" system. The triple helix model describes the nature of interactions between government, industry and institutions, and how this effects the process of innovation. Each strand of the helix relates to the other two and will develop an overlay of communications, networks, and organisations. For Australia, each State and Territory has a different renewable energy strategy, created by the "piecemeal" approach the Federal government takes to allocate funding for reform programs. The lack of a national strategy is reinforced by the lack of a coherent framework for making decisions on renewables at the local level. The energy industry has strong connections to the government and institutions in the triple helix framework, but the nature of this relationship is that it gives it a major competitive advantage over incoming firms looking to establish a foothold. Funding flowing from the energy industry to institutions directs research and reinforces the lockout/lock-in paradigm. While David said that there are available capacity mechanisms for government to use in their relationships to promote energy supply cooperation, he emphasised that the lack of openness makes full utilisation of them unlikely in the near future.

Ashton Whitcomb, University of St Andrews - "Do community owned renewable energy projects induce energy conservation behaviour among participants? What are the drivers of behaviour change?"

See the two posts below about his Eskdalemuir case study.

Eskdalemuir Case Study: Preliminary Findings

Posted by on Thursday 4 April 2013

I've recently returned from Eskdalemuir in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, after interviewing 19 residents and participants in the community PV and woodfuel schemes. What an incredible and unusual place! Almost entirely colonised by Buddhists because of the nearby Samye Ling Monastery (where I stayed), Eskdalemuir is made up mostly of elderly and retired people with relatively high pre-existing environmental awareness and low baseline consumption. Preliminary analysis indicates that more closely involved members often increased their understanding of energy use and conservation behaviour, but whether this was caused wholly or partly by their involvement in the energy projects was somewhat obfuscated by: (1) generally high pre-existing environmental awareness and low baseline consumption patterns; (2) high average age which increased resistance to major lifestyle changes or purchases (such as individual PV systems); (3) high awareness and concern about rapidly rising energy costs, specifically oil. Feedback and information about the PV system was irregularly and informally distributed, and as a result only 1 person in 19 could tell me the capacity of the PV panels! Despite this, many respondents indicated that their involvement had increased their interest in energy and renewables, and most had considered or gotten estimates for renewables in their own homes. This suggests that in a community with lower pre-existing environmental awareness, younger average age, and higher levels of formal project information updates, behaviour changes might be more common in response to participation in the projects.

Some selected quotes:

"When you see other people doing that stuff you start to think about what you can do in your own house."

"The PV system is just a component of the flourishing of The Hub."

"Since the installation of the PV everyone's thinking about it more."

"If we could, we would buy our own solar panels."

"I wanted PV but its much more cost effective to insulate your home."

"Solar wouldn't help me because I'd have to borrow money and I'm too old."

"We've always been pretty aware."

"I'm quite aware of my energy use and I know it's a lot. I like it nice and warm."

"The PV benefits could have been better communicated."

"I'm cooking less with the oven, it takes 2 or 3 kilowatts."

"I've met a lot of people through The Hub, thats definitely had knock on effects on my lifestyle."

So What's The Deal With Unconventional Fuels?

Posted by on Thursday 4th April 2013

If you're in any way involved in renewables, it's becoming increasingly hard to ignore unconventional fuels - oil sands, heavy oil, oil shale, shale oil, coal-to-liquids and gas-to-liquids. It's becoming evident that a new fault line is opening up between renewables on the one hand, and these high-tech hydrocarbon technologies on the other. Because both require long-term investment and high up-front capital outlays, governments and energy investors alike are increasingly having to make a choice. Because their fate is entwined with that of renewables, I've decided to write up a naively short summary of the main unconventional fuels - much of this is based on Kjell Aleklett's recent and recommended book. Although it's easy to criticise these technologies on environmental grounds, an equally important question here is, 'how many millions of barrels of oil a day (Mb/d) can these sources provide?'. Humans currently use about 82 Mb/d, and Kjell's group argue that global production of conventional oil is dropping by about 4 Mb/d every year. If Kjell's group is right, then unconventionals will at the very least have to replace that by expanding output by an equivalent amount. If they can't do that, then the case can be made that remaining liquid hydrocarbon reserves should be used very carefully and strategically to prepare for a low-oil future (by investment in renewables deployment and research, for example), rather than be squandered on consumption goods.

Oil Sands

Also called tar sands. The vast majority of it is mined in Canada's Alberta province, through old-fashioned strip-mining, as well as cyclic steam stimulation (CSS) and a fancier technique called steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD). Both the IEA and Kjell's group reckon strip-mining and in-situ methods can provide around 3.5 - 5 Mb/d by 2030.

Heavy Oil

Most of this stuff comes from Venezuela's gigantic Orinoco Belt. Both the IEA and Kjell's group reckon it'll account for around 1.5 - 2 Mb/d by 2030.

Oil Shale

A 'shale' is a very generic rock type. 'Oil shale' is the name given to shale that contains kerogen, which is a catch-all phrase for insoluble hydrocarbon material (astrobiologists find kerogen in meteorites, for example). Unlike oil, kerogen is typically waxy, and needs to be processed into synthetic oil before anyone can truly go around calling it an 'oil'. Most of it is currently mined in Estonia. The IEA reckons oil shales will contribute up to around 0.3 Mb/d by 2030.

Shale Oil

Shale oil (and shale gas) is what everyone is referring to when they talk about 'hydraulic fracking'. It's probably fair to say that this is the most controversial unconventional. The IEA published an estimate of 1 Mb/d by 2035, but opinions differ. Many reckon that shale oil and -gas are the future. Others think it's a bubble.

Coal-to-Liquids (CTL)

Just what is says. 5.5 Mb/d by 2030, reckon the folks at the US-based National Petroleum Council. Kjell's group reckon this is way of the mark though, and with the IEA, they put the 2030 forecast closer to 1 Mb/d.

Gas-to-Liquids (GTL)

Just what is says. 0.7 Mb/d by 2030 reckon the IEA, an estimate that Kjell's group view as hugely optimistic.

Deepwater Oil

It's probably worth saying a bit about Kjell's estimates for future deepwater (> 500m depth) oil production as well, as this represents an important flux:

  • Gulf of Mexico: 0.8 Mb/d by 2020
  • Brasil: 3 Mb/d by 2020
  • Angola: 1.64 Mb/d by 2020
  • Nigeria: 1.40 Mb/d by 2020

The Shifting Balance of Climate Action

Posted by on Wednesday 3rd April 2013

Anyone keeping an eye on recent international climate negotiations would be forgiven for despairing at the apparently glacial movement towards a binding agreement on emissions reductions. One would also be forgiven for thinking that only a handful of developed nations have made any tangible progress in reducing the carbon intensity of their economies.

However, a growing body of evidence shows that, despite the absence of any solid international agreement, the world’s largest economies are taking action now to secure their place in the low carbon economy of the future. Significantly, the evidence also suggests that the economic centre of clean energy gravity has now shifted, from the developed powers of Europe and North America, to the developing economies of Asia.

Independent Australian research organisation The Climate Institute last week released its Climate Leadership Review, 2013 detailing the findings of the Climate Institute/GE Low-g Carbon Competitiveness Index. Last carried out in 2008, the Index assesses how the world’s largest economies, the G20, are placed to achieve prosperity in a carbon-constrained world, based on three categories:

  • Composition - How the composition of the economy is currently structured towards less emissions intensive activities;
  • Preparation -The steps that countries have already taken to move towards a low-carbon economy; and
  • Prosperity –The ability of a country to innovate and adapt, based on education and natural resource depletion.

Results from the 2013 Index indicate that France, Japan, China, South Korea and the United Kingdom are currently best positioned to prosper in the global low-carbon economy.

France and the United Kingdom are ranked in a similar position as before, however, three of the top five best placed countries are now in Asia, with Asian economies, particularly China making the fastest progress.

China and Indonesia have both leapt forward four positions since 2008, while Germany has dropped from second place to sixth. The United States is one of only six countries whose overall score has dropped, moving to eleventh place, down from ninth in 2008.

Drivers of Climate Action

The Review suggests that countries are implementing low carbon policies for a range of self-interested reasons, as well as out of concern for climate change. Reasons include air pollution, resource efficiency, energy security and independence as well as an eye to the economic opportunities in new clean technology industries.

Indeed, China has sufficient self interest in reducing its emissions, expecting to spend 2.37 trillion Yuan ($380 billion) on energy conservation and emissions reduction in the five years through 2015, following a record year of air pollution in Beijing.

According to China’s State Council, the nation is expected to expand electricity generation from renewable sources with an aim of reducing the nation’s carbon emissions and energy use per unit of GDP by at least 3.7 percent in 2013. China’s Hydropower capacity will climb by 21 million kilowatts this year, wind power by 18 million and solar power by 10 million. Nuclear power-generation will rise by 3.24 million kilowatts.

However, China’s dramatic rise up the Index is the result not only of its major investment in clean energy, but also growth in its high technology exports. China alone accounted for just under half of all new public equity (e.g. shares in listed companies) raised in clean energy in 2010. The country now gains as much export revenue from solar panels ($US36 billion in 2011) as it does from shoes.

Asia attracted more than one third of the world’s clean energy investment in 2012. Around 90 per cent of global solar PV manufacturing is now in Asia, while the region produces around 60 per cent of the world’s wind turbines.

The US and Canada remain leaders in the development of carbon capture and storage, with a number of commercial-scale power sector projects under construction. However, new projects are increasingly being developed in China.

Carbon Pricing

Promisingly, the 2013 Review reports that every OECD country is now pricing carbon emissions, be it via a tax, market mechanism, or other policy.

Australia introduced a carbon price in 2012, while China, South Korea, South Africa and a number of other economies have also announced the rollout of carbon pricing policies over the next two years. The average weighted price of carbon among OECD countries in 2010 was 27 Euros per tonne.


Global investment in clean energy reached $US270 billion in 2012, higher than the $US223 billion invested in non-renewables generation in 2011. Increased global trade and competition throughout the industry have delivered benefits to consumers. Solar PV systems, for example, have fallen in price by 75 per cent over the last two years, making the technology far more accessible to consumers.

However, notwithstanding recent trends, the world is still on the path to a global temperature rise of 3-4°C, well beyond the risky “guardrail” of 2°C.

Despite proving its own value, significant market and policy changes remain imperative if the renewable energy sector is to achieve its full, crucial potential. Most essential is a review of subsidies to fossil fuels, which remain five to six times larger globally than subsidies for clean energy. - Cue that long awaited international agreement.

Eskdalemuir Case Study: A New Research Project

Posted by on Monday 25th March 2013

On Friday the 28th I will be journeying to the tiny village of Eskdalemuir in southwest Scotland to begin a new case study for my senior thesis in Sustainable Development at the University of St Andrews. I will be conducting semi-structured interviews with local residents to determine if and how the 9.3kW PV system installed at their community center has had an effect on their energy conservation behaviour. This research idea is based on existing literature of single owner renewable energy systems, which shows that aspects of microgeneration ownership, such as proximity to the technology, feedback on behaviour and system performance, and increased household communication about energy all help increase "energy literacy," which encourages and enables conservation behaviour such as actively turning off lights, adjusting boiler timing, turning down thermostats, load shifting, etc. This type of study has not been done before in a grid-tied community energy context, and Eskdalemuir shows promise in being able to replicate some of these key factors at a community scale. If found there, this information could prove highly beneficial to community energy developers looking to maximise the benefits of the energy systems to the community. Stay tuned here for regular updates!

The OECD's & Nuclear Energy Agency's take on decentralised energy generation

Posted by on Sunday 24th March 2013

A recent report by the OECD and Nuclear Energy Agency entitled 'Nuclear Energy and Renewables: System Effects in Low-carbon Electricity Systems' states that, "A more decentralised electricity system based on local energy sources could under certain conditions, such as the local matching of supply and demand, allow for shorter electricity transport distances and thus reduce electricity transmission losses."

SCENE Connect Under Construction

Posted by on 4th March 2013

We are currently developing an updated interface for the SCENE Connect portal, that would allow users to explore existing projects, and add or edit their own ones.

SCENE Connect preview

It will also provide quick links to useful information, for example guidance on the policy, planning and financing for renewable energy project development, and introductions to renewable energy technologies and products out there on the market.

We expect to launch the new SCENE Connect portal by the end of March, so keep an eye on the website!!

P.S. As advised by our mothers, we are putting more colour in the design.

Renewables News Recap - January 2013

Sponsored by Cutbot - Media Monitoring for the Digital Age

While many of us have been enjoying time off over the festive season, the world of renewable energy hasn’t stopped. In fact, January has seen an exciting start to what will surely be another big year for the sector. So if you missed it, here are some of the highlights so far...

Posted by on 23rd January 2013

January 1st 2013 – Clean Technica reviews 2012’s top 10 wind power stories – Progress of floating turbines, support from the Obama administration and a steady decrease in wind power costs add up to a good year for wind. read more

(image source: Clean Technica)

January 2nd 2013 – Energy Management makes its green energy predictions for 2013 - A greater focus on energy efficiency, harnessing of the Green Loans initiative and a surge in large scale PV installations. read more

January 3rd 2013 – The first phase of the Leicester district energy scheme is completed - Using combined heat and power, the scheme will serve thousands of homes, as well as public and private buildings, and help reduce carbon emissions by around 12 000 tonnes a year, rising to over 20 000 tonnes a year by 2020. read more

(image source:

January 6th 2013 – The UK Government’s Energy Bill receives criticism following its second reading in Parliament - SNP Spokesperson, Mike Weir MP, claims that the absence of a target to decarbonise the electricity market is a ‘glaring omission’ which could impact on investment in renewables. read more

January 7th 2013 - The Department of Energy and Climate Change proclaims 2012 a record year for green energy - According to DECC, Scotland produced 15.2 per cent more electricity from renewables over the first three quarters of 2012 than the same period in 2011, the previous record-breaking year. read more

(image source: DECC)

January 8th 2013 - Scotland's renewable energy industry predicts a successful 2013 - A survey carried out by law firm Pinsent-Mason finds that 84% of developers, public sector bodies, academic institutions and technology providers interviewed view Scotland as the most attractive UK region for investment in renewables over the next three years. read more

January 9th 2013 – "100% Renewable is the Only Way Forward" - The Energy Collective’s Anna Leidreiter explores the success of German and Danish community investments, explaining why the pursuit of 100% renewable targets is the only way forward, especially in times of economic hardship. read more

January 10th 2013 - A Californian solar project receives funding in less than 24 hours through crowdfunding - The success of online crowdfunding marketplace Mosaic indicates a growing trend in the U.S. read more

(image source: Mosaic)

January 11th 2013 – Renewable Energy Magazine explains why off-grid renewables offer a solution to energy more

January 13th 2013 – Dorset farmers team with the Duchy of Cornwall for renewable power scheme - The joint anaerobic digestion project planned for the Duchy's Poundbury Estate in Dorchester is hoped to provide power to 56,000 new homes. read more

January 14th 2013 – The UK Government’s £125m Green Deal cashback scheme goes live - Households are now able to access advice and funding to improve their energy efficiency and reduce energy bills and emissions. read more

(image source: DECC)

January 15th 2013 – The Community of Wedmore, Somerset welcome a £1.1 million community owned solar energy venture - The project, supported by Wedmore Green Group, is being run by Wedmore-based renewable energy consultancy group Rooftop Consultancy Ltd. Both groups make up the co-operative, Wedmore Community Power Company (WCPC), run by local investors who can buy shares. It is hoped that the project will produce enough electricity to meet the needs of 300 local more

January 16th 2013 – Wiki-Solar announces that global utility scale solar surpassed 9GW of capacity in 2012 - Europe, lead by Germany, currently hosts 50% of the worlds utility-scale solar capacity, however the last year has seen a rapid uptake of the technology by the more

January 18th 2013 – The Japanese Government announces a plan to replace the Fukushima nuclear power plant with the world’s largest wind farm. The plan to build a 1 gigawatt wind farm off the coast of Fukushima reflects the Japanese Government’s commitment to replace its nuclear power capacity with wind and solar more

January 19th 2013 – Dundee-based manufacturer enters bid to build off shore wind farm components in Scotland- Scottish manufacturer PressureFab has begun talks with a major European wind turbine manufacturer about a joint venture which could create up to 500 renewable energy jobs in Scotland. read more

(image source: Pressurefab)

January 20th 2013 – The Bangladeshi Government teams up with USAID to prepare a feed-in-tariff for renewable energy producers - The move by Bangladesh reflects a desire amongst both developed and developing countries to improve energy security by incentivising more

Thanks for reading. If you want to know more about what SCENE is working on at the moment why not Contact Us

Are we Ready to Work Together? Thoughts and reflections on a new focus for community renewable energy in Scotland

Posted by on 14th November 2012

There are so many options available to community energy groups in Scotland at the moment, none of which provide an easy path to success. The historically favoured method of attempting to develop 100% community-owned projects is still a popular choice, but becoming ever harder with limited grants available and loan finance hard to come by. Even the government’s CARES loan scheme does not provide all the answers (though it certainly helps communities who need some start-up funds). Things have changed rapidly since Nicholas Gubbins, Chief Executive of Community Energy Scotland wrote his excellent overview of the strengths and weaknesses of different project structures in terms of community resilience. Socially resilient and cohesive communities are fantastic and stand-alone projects are an excellent way of creating that togetherness. However, if we want to make wider economic and environmental impacts through community energy, not only in Scotland but throughout the UK, then joint ventures are key. SCENE has always seen it this way, and we are glad that others are starting to agree.

Many community groups are realising the advantages of working with the private sector, and are seeking to collaborate on a level playing field. Community – developer joint ventures are one way of doing this. However, the diversity of options and complexity of carrying these out means that even the foremost figures in Scottish community energy are still trying to crack the code. For these reasons SCENE welcomed the Scottish Government’s initiative in carrying out a workshop called ‘It Pays to Work Together: The Opportunities of Community Joint Venture for Renewable Projects’. Community Energy Scotland delivered the workshop with Felix Wright and others doing a great job of dealing with a very tricky subject with seemingly endless possibilities. Developers, communities, law firms and government bodies were all represented in an interesting series of talks and panel discussions.

The vision at the heart of SCENE is to bridge the community - private-sector engagement gap, to allow community renewable uptake to follow the same upwards trend that the wider market is enjoying. To do this communities have to act as social-businesses, which means utilising but not relying on grant sources and working as efficiently as possible. Listening to the conversations and acknowledging the wisdom in the room last week – it was clear there is no lack of ideas, or passion, yet many people have struggled or refused to support the ideas of joint ventures. Questions levelled at joint venture supporters often go along the line of 'Whose side are you on? Ours or theirs?'. To me, this is the largest remaining bottleneck in community energy - the ethos of ‘us and them’ – that a community cannot help a corporate to make money. The truth, as found emphatically in our report from May 2012 which surveyed 301 communities, is that economic factors (63%) far outweigh environmental (17%) and social (7%) factors as the driving forces behind community renewable energy projects. So it turns out that corporates and communities have one aim in common – cash generation, and the mind-set has to become one of striving for win-wins rather than David and Goliath conquests. Of course communities stand to gain all sorts of other 'softer' benefits, but thinking along the lines of 'what do we have in common?' is only going to help.

At the event we heard great stories of collaboration from Neilston and Carbon Free Developments, Grampian Housing Association and Huntley Development Trust. We also know that most community groups have driven and accomplished people at their forefronts (for example we heard from Mike Pitman of Fraserborough Development Trust who is a partner at Johnston Carmichael Chartered Accountants). I am confident, therefore, that in a shifting environment, joint ventures are the way forward, whether it’s a simple landowner-community arrangement or something more complex with a cooperative and a developer, or even the looming opportunities on Forestry Commission land. The fact of the matter is that many community groups are competent groups and they should be encouraged to organise and deal with private companies on business terms, without a feeling of inferiority or weakness. We are currently in a situation where a government backed loan scheme is being used to leverage further debt financing from only two or three overexposed banks. We need to reach out to new sources and to create synergy between communities in terms of knowledge exchange and investment. This event was a good indication that most organisations in this space know that collaboration is key, long may it continue.

The presentations from It Pays to Work Together held on 8th November at the Marriot Hotel, Glasgow, can be seen here.

RenewableUK 2012 - The UK's premier renewable energy event

Posted by and on 7th November 2012.

RenewableUK 2012 is the 34th annual conference and exhibition. With over 300 companies exhibiting and the thousands of people participating at the three day event, it was hard not to feel like you were at the heart and excitement of the advancement in Renewable energy in the UK. The event took place at the Glasgow’s SECC from 30 Oct to 1 Nov. As well as the exhibition there were talks and conferences over the three days, some which were free and open to the public while others were private. The first minister of Scotland Alex Salmond MSP was one of the key note speakers highlighting the importance of this event. It was an opportunity for everyone to come together who is passionate about our future energy needs. During this event, companies active in the UK in wind, wave, and tidal sector were displayed at the exhibition.

The event, only a short train ride from Scotland’s capital, was easily accessible via public transportation. Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland, was an appropriate venue as one of this year’s main focuses was on marine and tidal technologies which the talks were revolved around on the second day. Scotland also has one of the best resources for wind and marine energy so obviously Scotland will be a key player in shaping our energy future.

It was very obvious when entering the exhibition hall, that wind-related companies had outnumbered other sectors. However, the exhibition was not just private companies showcasing their work and promoting their products and services from large-scale offshore wind turbines and spare parts, but noticeably there was a range of other institutes and organisations present. There were universities, research centres, manpower provision, to GIS and risk assessment companies at the exhibition. The exhibition was an obvious opportunity for companies to do some schmoozing but there was something for everyone at the event. While wondering around the maze of exhibition stalls I was delighted to meet a retired farmer who had travelled from the highlands to attend a free public seminar on farming wind power. It was easy to feel like the future plans for renewable energy was only aimed for large corporate companies (especially when stood between Siemens and Dong Energy's stalls!) but the RenewableUK event had/is catered for everyone who is genuinely interested in sustainable energy. Other free seminars included an introduction on how to have a career in the renewable industry which was complimented by a careers fair open to the public.

The dates for RenewableUK 2013 conferences and exhibitions are already confirmed. Visit RenewableUK website for the calendar and take note of the dates!

Apolcalypse, Technofix Future, or Back to Nature? A reflection on the future of technology in environmental & energy policy

Posted by on 27th October 2012.

This paper aims to discuss some of the key issues surrounding technological change in the context of unfolding environmental and energy challenges, with a view to asking whether supporting and/or directing such change is an appropriate keystone in policy looking to address these challenges. Much has been written on the relative effectiveness of different policy mechanisms towards encouraging technology (e.g., Jaffe et al., 2002; Requate, 2005; Verbruggen and Lauber, 2009; Verbruggen et al., 2010), and it is not my intention to rewrite any of it. Rather, I ask the question upon which much of the usefulness of this ongoing work would seem to depend: should policy-makers look primarily to technology in the face of these challenges, or is greater focus on alternate mitigation and adaptation strategies called for?

Click here to download Apolcalypse, Technofix Future, or Back to Nature? A reflection on the future of technology in environmental & energy policy