Opinion: What role will Aberdeen play in the future of renewables?

Xero Energy are based in Glasgow.
ESB open Glasgow office.

The annual two day All-Energy exhibition and conference is now underway in Aberdeen, and while there will be plenty of talk about new developments and technologies, I’d expect much of the conversation at the show to focus on the decision to move the event out of the Granite City.

It’s been reported that the UK’s largest renewable energy event, which last year attracted 7,687 visitors from 48 countries, will move from Aberdeen to Glasgow, at least until 2018.

Various reasons have been suggested for the location change, including accommodation availability in Aberdeen and skills shortages in the area, and in recent times we have seen a number of companies in the Aberdeen area looking elsewhere to expand and recruit.

It’s also been noted that significant investment has been made in Glasgow’s International Technology and Renewable Energy Zone, which is expected to boost the sector.

The decision to relocate has been met with understandable levels of disappointment and a fair degree of dismay by leading figures in the region’s business and energy sector, many of whom invested considerable time and effort in establishing the event more than 10 years ago and continue to provide support.

The decision is going to force Aberdeen to ask some big questions of itself, and for Aberdeen to ask big questions of those in power. For many years the city was recognised as the oil and gas capital of Europe. That didn’t happen by chance and we have to credit a lot of people who put a lot of hard work in to establishing that brand. It meant that Aberdeen was, and to a large extent still is, perceived as the hub of the European oil and gas industry.

Recognising that renewable energy was going to play an increasing role in the mix, and the talent that exists in the area, in recent years great effort has been put into establishing Aberdeen as the energy capital of Europe. The All Energy website even endorses Aberdeen’s position when it boasts: “All-Energy is THE renewables show in THE Energy City.”

What impact, then, will losing All Energy, for whatever length of time, have on Aberdeen’s developing reputation as the heart of the European energy sector? And what impact will it have on Glasgow’s growing interest in this field? Or Dundee’s, or Edinburgh’s or Invergordon’s or cities elsewhere in Europe?

It appears that the UK’s renewable energy industry, which has struggled to stand on its own feet, is now starting to get serious with several large-scale developments now underway. We have to ask ourselves what role will Aberdeen have to play in that renewables future? We had no God-given right to host the North Sea oil and gas industry but we made it ours. We have no God-given right to host the renewable energy sector either, as the All-Energy decision has made clear.