Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Highlands and Islands target renewable energy opportunities

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), the community and economic development agency for north and west Scotland, is ramping up its drive to help the region become a world centre for the renewable energy industry.

The development agency has created a new senior post to spearhead its efforts to capitalise on the region’s natural resources and secure economic benefits which could be worth billions to Scotland’s economy.

Calum Davidson, previously Head of Key Sectors with HIE, has been appointed Director of Energy and Low Carbon.

HIE Chief Executive Alex Paterson said the new role would cover the whole of the energy sector, focusing on the ‘once in a generation’ opportunities presented by renewable energy in particular.

“The energy sector plays a significant role in the Highlands and Islands and has the potential to grow dramatically in the coming years,” said Mr Paterson.

“HIE’s decision to create this new post underlines the significance we attach to the sector, both as an economic driver and as a contributor to Scotland’s drive to cut carbon emissions.

“Our ambition is for the Highlands and Islands to become an international leader in the field of renewables, which has the potential to play a major role in Scotland’s economic recovery and growth.”

Mr Davidson said HIE was firmly focused on ensuring the region can derive the maximum economic and community benefits from its considerable renewable energy potential.

“It’s well known that the Highlands and Islands has some of the best wind, wave and tidal energy resources in Europe, and we’re already attracting interest from developers around the world,” he said.

“However, these resources on their own won’t deliver economic growth to the region.

“If the energy sources are here, we want the jobs to be established here too.

“There are a number of things we can do to improve our chances.

“We can continue to develop research capacity, as we’re already doing with testing, deployment, environmental impacts, new technologies and systems in Orkney, Caithness, Argyll and the Western Isles.

“We will be working to expand the supply chain of local businesses involved in the sector, including those with a background in oil and gas and nuclear.

“Together with Scottish Development International, we will be marketing ourselves across the globe to attract major manufacturers to the Highlands and Islands, especially to our key fabrications sites.

“And we will be working hand in glove with government on the critical issues of transmission charging and grid connections to ensure that the Highlands and Islands remains at the heart of the new energy revolution.

“This is a very important sector for the Highlands and Islands, and there’s never been a more exciting time to be involved in its development.”

Mr Davidson is a regional planner with 25 years’ experience in economic development.

He was born in Caithness with North Sutherland connections and brought up in Shetland and Inverness, where he attended Inverness Royal Academy.

He lives in Cromarty in the Black Isle, is a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art and Stirling University, and is married with three sons.