Energy firms in the Highlands and Islands could face a challenging year ahead, according to umbrella business organisation North Scotland Industries Group (NSIG).
NSIG chief executive Ian Couper said: “In general, the oil and gas and renewable industries have not been hit quite as hard as other industries and other areas in the country.
“A lot of contracts in the oil and gas industry were agreed before the downturn. It has been suggested that the end of the year will be an interesting time when these contracts start to come to an end, however, the extent of how much companies feel the pinch will be determined by the price of oil, and that has been on the rise again.
“The renewable industry continues to receive considerable backing from government and businesses and offers huge potential for the Highlands and Islands.
“One of the areas we are focusing on is the Outer Hebrides where we believe there will be considerable opportunities in marine, offshore and onshore power. We are in discussions with Western Isles Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise about staging a major event on this topic in the Outer Hebrides towards the end of the year.”
For the oil and gas sector in the Highlands and Islands, next year is expected to be one of consolidation for some, but an increasingly international outlook for others.
Mr Couper said: “There appear to be significant opportunities for our oil and gas industries to develop overseas. Our members in this sector have been talking to us about Brazil, the Middle East, Canada and a host of other places and we are looking at organising trade missions to Brazil and possibly Denmark this year.
“In the renewable sector, the development of the grid is an issue, while the state of the A9, both north and south of Inverness, as well as the A96 road, remains a concern for industry in general.”
NSIG has almost 100 members spread throughout the Highlands, Islands and north-east, and membership has more than doubled in the past two years.