The potential impact of the General Election on Scotland's renewable energy sector will be one of the topics for debate at the 6th annual Scottish Highland Renewable Energy Conference (SHREC), which takes place in Inverness on 30 April.
The final programme for the event, which takes place exactly one week before the country goes to the polls, has now been unveiled by organisers and leading law firm Harper Macleod.
With debates very much in the news, SHREC 2015 will for the first time feature a Question-Time style forum with leading figures in Scotland's renewable energy sector giving their thoughts on the state of industry.
Energy Minister Fergus Ewing MSP will deliver the keynote address at the event, which will bring together around 200 delegates – ranging from those involved in community-based projects to figures from major renewables organisations - to discuss the current state and future of the industry.
The Minister's speech will be followed by the forum, with delegates asking questions of a panel chaired by Jeremy Sainsbury OBE (Natural Power) and featuring Mr Ewing, Ian Ross (Chairman of Scottish Natural Heritage), Calum Davidson (Director of Energy at HIE) and David Bone (Harper Macleod's Head of Energy).
As well as the big picture, SHREC will also focus on three main areas for renewables in the Highlands and Islands – funding, community & local energy, and renewables for landowners.
Harper Macleod's head of Energy & Natural Resources David Bone said: "SHREC is a fantastic forum to discover what's going on in the industry from those working on the ground, and to share knowledge and experience. Over five years more than 1000 delegates have contributed to the development of renewables in the Highlands and Islands, and each year there is more to talk about.
"Regardless of election results everyone agrees that a strong renewables industry is vital to the country. We need to see strong signs that conditions, policies, targets and support will allow our indigenous industry to thrive. The foundations are in place, but we need consistent, well thought-out policy to support our industry in becoming truly world-class.
"SHREC is a perfect opportunity for those involved in the industry to reinforce how it can lead to more jobs, more investment, more community benefit, more construction work, more opportunities for the supply-chain, more use of our ports and harbours and less requirement to import our energy supplies."
SHREC will provide an in-depth focus on developments affecting the industry, with special workshops featuring expert speakers on key aspects of renewables across the Highlands and Islands.
This year's workshops will focus on:
Funding and renewables: with the wider economy showing signs of recovery, this session will look at the funding challenges and options facing renewable energy businesses at every stage of their life cycle from the start-up phase right through to selling a successful business. Chaired by Chris Kerr of Harper Macleod. Speakers include: Paula Skinner, Harper Macleod; Louise Wilson, Abundance Generation; Keith Wilson, Santander; Jonathan Waxman, Genesis Energy; Owen Coyle, Green Deal Union.
Community and local energy: community ownership and community energy projects are a hot topic. This session will examine the potential impact of proposed legislative changes and Community Right to Buy. It will also look at advances in local energy economies and examples of practical projects. Chaired by Professor Lorne Crerar, Chairman of HIE. Speakers include: Calum MacLeod, Harper Macleod; Mel McCrae, Highlands and Islands Enterprise; Chris Morris, Local Energy Scotland; Felix Wright, Community Energy Scotland.
Practical Guide to Renewables for Landowners: with more legislation affecting them, it is more important than ever that landowners take steps to ensure that renewable energy developments are structured to ensure maximum benefit and protection before, during and after completion of the development. This session will look at both new development opportunities and those reviewing options in relation to established developments. Chaired by Graeme Nisbet, Head of Rural, Harper Macleod. Speakers include: Gordon Stewart, Bidwells; Shirley Mathieson, Saffrey Champness; Tom Monteith, Harper Macleod.
SHREC 2015 will take place on Thursday 30 April at the Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness, from 8am - 4pm. Delegate places cost £100 (including VAT).