Renewables expertise in high demand across the globe

Global reach of Scotland’s renewables expertise revealed by new research.
Published: Wed 14 Dec 2016
Countries around the world are drawing on the expertise of Scottish companies in the renewables industry. The companies are providing clean energy-related services and products in over 40 countries around the globe including Japan, China, Russia, Taiwan, Cape Verde, USA, Canada, Jamaica, Finland, and Kenya. This is according to research carried out by Scottish Renewables which states that the services and products exports are worth well over £125 million over a 5 year period. These companies are also creating employment opportunities in over half of these countries.
Projects involve giving advice to Japan’s government; providing cranes to South Africa and Morocco to build windfarms and working with the World Bank in Chile. Ayrshire-based crane company Windhoist is one such company assisting with turbine installation in Africa, Europe and Australia. Already, the company has installed more than 4,800 wind turbines across the globe, from South Africa and Morocco to Australia and Belgium. Orkney-based consultancy company Aquatera is giving renewable development advice to developers on Indonesia’s Gosong Island, as well as to the US, Chile, Japan, Colombia and Peru. St Andrews-based SMRU Consulting is working in the Bay of Fundy, Canada, to monitor how porpoises and dolphins interact with tidal energy turbines.
Glasgow’s Star Renewable Energy has installed a heat pump in Drammen, Norway, which now provides warmth for the city’s 63,000 residents and businesses. Orkney’s European Marine Energy Centre was called upon to plan for the development of a wave and tidal energy industry in Nagasaki, Japan.

Developing renewables skills

According to Jenny Hogan, Director of Policy at Scottish Renewables, the research shows that Scotland’s expertise in renewable energy is in demand across the globe. "The stretching targets set in Scotland have meant our home-grown green energy industry has developed skills which are in demand on every inhabited continent, bringing investment and income to Scotland from across the world.”

She says that countries are taking notice of Scotland’s lead in the development of wave and tidal energy. Scottish engineering skills are in demand as well as their environmental, planning and technical expertise. 

Scottish Government Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse, said: "This survey shows the considerable global reach of renewable energy businesses in Scotland.” Low-carbon industries and their supply chains generated almost £11 billion in 2014 and supported 43,500 jobs, according to figures from the Office of National Statistics published recently.

Says the Minister: "Together with this new research from Scottish Renewables, the figures reinforce the growing importance of the low-carbon industries, including renewable energy businesses, to the Scottish economy and vindicates the Scottish Government’s support for the sector and the increasingly crucial role it plays within our energy mix and the wider economy."

Skills for the energy transition

A skilled workforce is paramount to a successful global transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. 

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates that in 2015 there were as many as 8.1 million people employed in the renewable energy sector. However, there is still a massive shortage of skilled personnel to develop, design, finance, build, operate and maintain renewable energy projects. This represents one of the greatest barriers to the wider adoption of renewable energy technologies.

The boom in solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind technologies, in particular, has created a huge demand for skilled technicians – to install PV, and to maintain and operate wind installations. There is also a growing need for professionals within educational institutions to teach renewable energy courses, within governments to design and implement effective and efficient policies, and within financial institutions to accurately assess renewable energy project proposals. 

Insufficient education or training can result in project delays and operational and maintenance failures, which in turn affect the profitability of projects and give misleading impressions about the reliability of renewable energy. If renewable energy deployment targets are to be reached and employment benefits fully harnessed, there needs to be more focus on education and training in the sector.