Uncovering Scotland’s amazing renewables potential

Among the business incentives are fixed rate loans of ?1,000 to ?100,000 to help firms reduce carbon dioxide emissions, save money and increase their competitiveness. Offered by the Energy Saving Trust and funded by the Scottish government, the scheme aims to support companies looking to reduce costs through improved energy, material resource and water efficiency. It?s aimed at Scottish SMEs, landlords, not-for-profit organisations and charities.

Rachelle Money of Scottish Renewables, the industry?s representative body, tells me that the impetus for renewable energy takeup is also coming from two financial support mechanisms, the Renewable Heat Incentive and the Feed-in Tariff. ?They?ve led to many more individuals and companies looking to install renewables in their homes and businesses. Also electricians and plumbers are entering the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) which ensures that people installing solar panels, heat pumps, biomass boilers and small wind turbines are fully trained and have the appropriate accreditation.?

?Two thirds of our membership (about 200 firms) are SMEs? says Rachelle. ?They include PR firms, law firms, consultancies, recruitment agencies, wind farm developers like Coriolis Energy and hydro developers like Baby Hydro and Green Highland Renewables; there?s a number of firms working in renewable heat sector too such as Buccleuch BioEnergy.?

Take another example: Gaia Wind, a Danish company which saw the incentives being offered in Scotland and switched headquarters to Glasgow. Last year it installed 350 wind turbines for farmers, breweries, golf clubs and small businesses, reporting a 168 per cent increase in sales to ?6.7m, which made it the fastest-growing Scottish business in any sector.

But the whole sector faces a challenge ? not just from the government?s highly ambitious targets. The recession is making it harder for environmentalists to maintain funding and political commitment to cleaner energy. And the dirty fossil fuels industry is always looking for ways to keep its stranglehold on our greedy hunger for power.?

As Friends of the Earth pointed out this week, a committee of MPs were hardly enthusiastic in their report on fracking of shale gas; if that gets the ban they want, then Scotland could see a rush to renewables as firms worldwide flock to the tartan Klondike!

Bruce Whitehead‘s column on Real Business explores the latest political developments and their effects on UK businesses.

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