Consultants predict bright future for renewable energy

That work relating to climate change, energy efficiency and renewable energy features high on the list of growth areas predicted by most environmental consultancies is a given - but what might be surprising is just how much confidence there is in this sector.

In this year's survey a greater proportion of consultants than ever before told us that they expected to see more work in climate change solutions, carbon management and renewable energy advice.

While there are several inescapable drivers for this, the surge in interest from consultants is notable.

While climate change continues to climb the political and business agenda, this is nothing new and is an ongoing trend that can be traced back a number of years.

Perhaps the imminent COP15 climate talks in Copenhagen have sharpened the focus for many potential clients, or consultants are optimistic that targets or commitments to come out of the negotiations will translate into more work on the frontline.

The Carbon Reduction Commitment and Energy Efficiency (CRC) scheme which will encourage many organisations to take a closer look at their fuel bills will also doubtless generate work.

edie spoke to Nigel Clark, marketing director for Enviros, the consultancy voted best in this field by clients in this year's survey about the drivers and why he felt the future looked rosy for climate change specialists.

"There has been no let up in the policy agenda for climate change," he said.

He added that while there may be a slowdown in the public sector in general, this trend has been bucked with climate change work, with all manner of agencies and departments still keen to take action in this area, not just those such as Defra and DECC where environmental issues are core business.

"Another aspect of it is undoubtedly the Carbon Reduction Commitment - not only has seen a good amount of revenue come into the consultancy market on the back of that, but it has opened a much wider audience to the practical carbon agenda, " said Mr Clark.

Over the last few years what has driven growth in the environmental consultancy market has primarily been legislation and compliance, he pointed out, and while some would take action for brand and public perception, the majority of organisations did so to meet commitments.

On the regulation front, Display Energy Certificates (DECs) and Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) have also played a big role in generating work for some consultancies, he added.

He also pointed to the good level of broad incoming investment in industry and the retail sector led by the Carbon Trust as a positive sign.

The expansion of climate change and related carbon issues into the mainstream also meant that the services of consultants with expertise in these issues were in demand well beyond niche environmental jobs.

"You find it playing into a lot of project you wouldn't necessarily consider as climate change projects. People are asking what are the carbon implications of their activities," said Mr Clark.

"There's absolutely no sign of let up for demand. During a year when quite a few consultancies have had quite a tough time of it this is being seen as the area that will see them through."

Gwen Ventris, chief operating officer, AEA Europe, the consultancy considered the best in the filed by those working within the profession, largely agreed.

"There has been considerable growth in climate change and renewable energy consultancy areas in recent years, and we expect this to continue as legislation drives climate change further up the agenda," she said.

"At the moment, not all organisations fully appreciate the benefits of improving resource and energy efficiency in their business operations.

"A recent survey we conducted on the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC), revealed that the biggest driver was compliance rather than cost savings or reputation.

"However, we would expect this to start changing once the CRC scheme starts next year. As far as the COP15 climate change talks in Copenhagen are concerned, while expectations of firm pledges on greenhouse gas reductions in December wax and wane, the conference will keep climate change on the agenda.

"Ultimately, all organisations and all citizens will have to change their behaviour in order to meet emissions targets, and this provides opportunities for consultants who specialise in all these areas."Sam Bond

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