UK government launches renewables export drive

In a bid to help Britain gain a foothold in the expanding global market for renewables, the UK government has established a support centre in Aberdeen to guide potential manufacturers and suppliers through the government’s renewables programme.

Launching Renewables UK, Energy and Industry Minister Brian Wilson quoted projections suggesting that cumulative investment in renewables will be worth between £500 billion and £1,500 billion by 2020. The window of opportunity for the UK supply chain to take advantage is wide open at present, stated the minister, but he warned that “it will not remain that way for long if we fail to grasp the opportunity”.

The flourishing Danish wind energy sector now reported to employ around 14,000, is often held up as an example of a lost opportunity for Britain, which had been a world leader in developing the technology 20 years ago.

The new unit is modelled closely on a similar initiative launched 30 years ago for the emerging oil and gas industry, transferring across expertise in sponsorship and support. Its Aberdeen base is also expected to be close to many of the new renewables companies branching out of established oil and gas firms based in the city.

Next month, Renewables UK is due to publish guidance on renewables funding, followed by a conference later in the year. Its initial efforts will concentrate on identification of any gaps in the UK renewable supply chain and dissemination of opportunities.

Generally, the centre’s main activities will be promoting the UK as the location of choice for the renewables manufacturing base; actively identifying and promoting export opportunities; ensuring the use of new technology in partnership with the DTI’s sustainable energy programmes; providing accurate and relevant market information; and, understanding the industry’s needs and acting on them.

Small, local and enterprising

The Government is hoping to tap into the resourcefulness of local communities with the launch of its £1.6 million Community Renewables initiative, which is viewed as a two-pronged effort to boost renewables and educate the wider public. Communities across England are being encouraged to devise local renewable energy projects suited to their areas which will not only create environment friendly developments but will also generate an income.

Under the joint scheme, which is run by the Countryside Agency, the Energy Saving Trust, DTI, DEFRA and the Forestry Commission, local support teams have been set up in 10 areas covering half of England. These teams are made up of local councils, energy experts, government bodies and other specialists will provide advice and training on feasibility studies, funding, technology issues, planning, environmental assessment and public participation. Typical projects that the initiative hopes to develop include: turning waste from farm and food waste into natural gas to generate electricity for community buildings; using wood fired boilers to heat schools; and wider use of solar energy at hospitals.

A number of key funding areas for community schemes available include the government’s: £20 million major solar photovoltaic (PV) demonstration programme, which will include support for community projects and individual households. There is also a £10 million fund for renewable energy schemes with strong local community or household interest; and £5 million for fuel poor households that are off grid or without mains gas connections.

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