Understanding policy is key to identifying eco-opportunities
The Westcountry's renewables sector needs to be pro-active about seizing opportunities so that the region's economy reaps maximum benefit from emerging opportunities, according to the chief executive of Regen SW.
Merlin Hyman said that, despite the prospect of a triple dip recession and continued funding difficulties, the sector had continued to grow over the last year.
He said that large scale solar schemes, in particular, were progressing well, ahead of a March 31 deadline when incentives will drop by 20%.
Confusion caused by last minute revisions to the Feed in Tariff is continuing to impact on the sector, said Mr Hyman, despite a sharp in equipment costs meaning that many schemes still generate a good rate of return.
And he pointed to developments with the Wave Hub and Atlantic Array schemes as evidence that both wave and wind power offered significant opportunities.
But for the region's economy to fully benefit from these, Mr Hyman said that investment was needed in skills and facilities.
"The industry is doing well and growing strongly during the teeth of a recession. It has a clear opportunity to grow in the future but there are things that we can do to make sure we benefit from that like growing the skills of our workforce," he said.
Mr Hyman said that accountants, lawyers and engineers in the region were picking up work from renewables schemes – but he said the South West continued to miss out on supply chain opportunities.
"The longer-term challenge for the region is to think about how it wants to create maximum value. There is still more for us to do," he said.
Around 1,200 people are expecting to attend Regen SW's annual Renewable Energy Marketplace event, at Westpoint, in Exeter on March 19.
Keynote speaker will be Rachel Solomon Williams, head of strategy at the Office for Renewable Energy Deployment, at the Department for Energy and Climate Change.
Firms in the sector will be able to find out more about latest developments in government policy as well as giving feedback about how changes have impacted on them.
"This is an industry that is, to a large extent, driven by government policy and its implementation. Understanding that policy is key. Any business in this sector that doesn't have the strategy of understanding what government policy is about isn't going to go very far," added Mr Hyman.
For more information, see www.renewableenergymarketplace.co.uk.