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Lord Stephen calls for urgent change in UK energy policy to back ‘innovative’ Highlands renewables industry at Harper Macleod's SHREC conference

Former Deputy First Minister Lord Stephen called for an urgent rethink of UK Government energy policy at the 7th annual Scottish Highland Renewable Energy Conference (SHREC) yesterday (Thursday, 21 April).

Lord Stephen Keynote Shrec Conference

Speaking at the event held in Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness, organised by Harper Macleod, the Scotland Spokesperson for the Libdems in the House of Lords said it was ‘crazy’ that subsidies for foreign investment backed nuclear projects were being prioritised at the expense of local renewable proposals.

Lord Stephen, who also served as Scotland’s Energy Minister from 2005, said: ”There are still a significant number of positive and innovative projects being proposed in the renewable sector, particularly in the Highlands and Islands. Many involve a strong element of community ownership. This conference is yet another demonstration of the ingenuity and drive that exists within the local renewable industry - from developers, communities and the public agencies - to secure Scotland’s renewable future.

“However, the unfortunate reality is that not enough of these projects will come to fruition unless the current UK government policy towards renewable energy is changed, and changed quickly. The government's negative approach is not just in relation to onshore wind, but affects the likes of solar and hydro projects too.

“Many of these projects simply will not be viable with the extremely limited support now available, which pales in comparision to the huge government subsidy being offered to the new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point. It's a crazy situation which subsidises huge French and Chinese nuclear investors, at the expense of small and medium size renewable projects in the Highlands and Islands."

The SHREC conference, which has welcomed more than 1000 delegates to the city since it was founded in 2010, once again brought together leading figures in the Highlands and Islands renewable industry to focus on the future development of the sector.

This year’s event highlighted the growth of local and community involvement in renewable energy projects as well as the development of innovative new energy storage and demand side management schemes such as the NINES project in Shetland.

David Bone

David Bone addresses the Harper Macleod SHREC confernce in Inverness

David Bone, one of Scotland’s foremost renewable energy lawyers and head of Energy & Natural Resources at Harper Macleod, said: “As always, energy policy decisions loom large in the sector and have a significant impact on the future of our local industry. However, while we push for a re-think on UK energy policy, both to give investors confidence and keep the lights on, it is clear that we must also continue to think outside of the box to create our own renewable future.

“So much hard work has been put in by so many people to get to this point, that it is essential we don’t allow the progress made in renewable energy across the Highlands and Islands to be derailed, despite the challenges it faces. There are some groundbreaking projects already in place while the growth of community involvement and shared ownership is another bright light.

“We were delighted to welcome Lord Stephen to this year’s SHREC, along with such a diverse array of influential figures in the local renewables world. As a sector we have always successfully collaborated and SHREC has again proven to be a great forum for coming together to work out how we can maintain the momentum that has been accrued.”

The conference also heard from speakers including Laura Nicolson, Shared Ownership Development Manager at Local Energy Scotland, George Baxter, head of development strategy at SSE renewables, Felix Wight, head of development at Community Energy Scotland, and Jeremy Sainsbury OBE, director at Natural Power.

Meanwhile, delegates also took part in a number of bespoke workshop sessions on key industry developments, with further speakers including: Stuart Reid of HWEnergy; Mel MacRae of HIE; Andrew Smith of Force 9 Energy; Alan James of Pale Blue Dot; Bryan Leask of Hjatland Housing Association; and Stevie Adams of SSE Power Distribution.