Last month Clearfleau attended two trade events, one in Glasgow and one in Birmingham. While both events attracted a wide range of industry participants and covered a variety of issues in their organised sessions, there was noticeably more of a buzz at the All Energy event in Scotland than at the NEC. There are several reasons for this, and maybe some lessons for those who have the difficult task of organising trade shows focused on sustainability at a time when UK politicians are somewhat distracted.
Firstly, Scotland is making investment in the low-carbon economy a national priority. Policy-makers are being creative in helping industry to develop solutions which can be replicated across the nation.
Secondly, companies exhibiting at All Energy can expect to engage directly with potential customers who recognise that they must change how they manage their businesses, if they are to meet carbon reduction targets. More businesses therefore attend such events in Scotland than in England.
Thirdly, All Energy is a well-established event with a clear identity, organised by an enthusiastic team that understands the renewables industry. The seminars and other platforms offer information visitors are looking for. They come away better informed on both policy and technology innovation.
Sadly, without the same level of political engagement in England, with more constrained exhibitors and perhaps less informative seminars for industrial visitors, the event at the Birmingham NEC was less productive. It also failed to attract much attendance from British industry, despite the 2050 Net Zero challenge.
So why are Scottish companies more engaged with sustainability and resource efficiency?
While both events were similar in size, the level of audience enthusiasm for the topics was quite different, perhaps reflecting the variance in political support. The Glasgow event was opened by a speech from the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, showing Scotland’s ambition to meet Carbon Net Zero by 2045 – five years earlier than England. She underlined the jobs and economic growth that will result from delivering such an ambitious transition target.
The Scots clearly want to be seen to be driving the transition, with a palpable expectation at All Energy that Scotland will take the lead in delivering greater resource efficiency. From Westminster all we get are fine words – not matched by actions – from distracted Government departments. The following week at EDIE Live, apart from a few seminars on the Net Zero target, policy discussion was more limited with no political participation.
With Westminster politicians less willing to engage with industry on how to hit our targets, the Scottish are stealing a march – delivering more responsible policy on topics like carbon reduction, replacing fossil fuels and encouraging decentralised energy. In exploring opportunities to provide Scotland with a much greener future, they are supporting investment and employment in novel technologies and process innovation.
Clearfleau is currently helping a client’s application for new grant funding under Scotland’s Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme (LCITP). The showcase project involves developing and then replicating bio-energy projects on commercial locations in more remote areas. The key to its success will be our use of modular designs for ease of installation and a cost-effective solution.
One of the grant criteria is the project’s replicability on other sites across rural Scotland. The LCITP scheme is a great example of how modest amounts of state funding can challenge industry to deliver change and to develop more creative solutions for the transition to a low carbon economy.
If Westminster is to meet the same challenge, politicians must do more to work with industry to develop new ways to manage carbon and boost resource efficiency.
Developing a more circular economy will involve moving away from traditional methods that include disposal or destruction of bio-materials that are discarded from industrial processes. We can find other uses for them, for example as raw materials for new processes and products. Chemicals or proteins can be extracted and used or adapted. Clean water and energy can be recovered, while many novel manufacturing processes will themselves produce residues that can be a source of bio-energy or facilitate water recovery.
Across the economy, the food and drink sectors, healthcare, pharmaceutical and life sciences will all have to be seen to reduce their carbon and water footprints. Better use of their bio-degradable process residues and water re-use should be at the heart of the UK’s Clean Growth Strategy.
Industry and Government must work together to deliver the right outcomes, particularly without leadership from the EU, if we are to satisfy the expectations of climate protesters and lobby groups.
To achieve the Net Zero 2050 target set out by the Committee on Climate Change will require radical thinking and sustained pressure on policy makers and the shared political ambition that can now be found in Edinburgh but is still missing in Westminster.