A lot has changed in the energy industry since David Rodger first worked for Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG) more than a decade ago.
But for all the differences, many of the core issues hold true.
“Back then, I remember focus on issues such as finance, grid connection and public perception. They were key issues for the industry then, and they are still key issues now,” Rodger said.
“That’s particularly true when you look at the energy transition and the public dimension, with greater awareness and acceptance of climate change as being very real.
“People are now looking to see what the solutions may be, and that’s going to mean action across large industry, communities and households.”
After working for AREG between 2005 and 2009, Rodger returned on October 1 to take up the newly created chief executive position.
“This is the first formal CEO role at the organisation. It’s a statement of ambition, to really take Aberdeen and AREG into what is a new era,” he explained
For the past decade or so, Rodger has worked for oil and gas supermajor Shell, based in the north-east.
Prior to that, he was at Swedish renewables giant Vattenfall where he played an instrumental role in the delivery of the Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm, alongside AREG, and the Clashindarroch onshore wind farm near Huntly.
“They were great projects to be involved in. They leave you with an appreciation of the many different disciplines that are needed, in terms of environment, engineering and design,” Rodger said.
“To deliver any renewable energy project, it creates a wide circle of opportunity. Many people are looking at careers in the industry so having projects on the go will create new career openings for people within the net zero world”
Rodger takes up the job at AREG – which is celebrating its 20th birthday next year – at a crucial time for renewables.
Much of the hope for a low carbon energy mix hinges on the rapid deployment of the industry, and many are relying upon it to step in and offer employment as oil and gas production dwindles.
Nowhere is that more pertinent than in Aberdeen, a city that has been shaped by the fortunes of the North Sea for decades.
And AREG, which now boasts more than 200 members, is a key driver in ensuring that the energy transition delivers for the north-east.
Rodger said: “AREG has some fairly unique partnerships – right across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire -and some very well established relationships across the industry supply chain with other likeminded organisations.
“We have an associate membership, which means that we are connected to most of the key organisations in the city.
“The group can act as a catalyst if you like for both discussion and development, and hopefully we’ll see new ideas and new projects coming through as a result.”
Indeed, meeting and growing AREG’s membership is one of Rodger’s initial priorities in his new position.
As the UK continues to emerge from Covid-19, in-person industry events are now a reality for the first time in many months.
For AREG, they offer a chance to bring key stakeholders together, to “hear about the opportunities within the renewable energy industry”, both in the north-east and further afield.
The pinnacle of that, for Scotland at least, will be the landmark COP26 conference, which is being held in Glasgow next month.
World leaders will take to the city to draw up plans for tackling climate change, in what is being hailed as the most important meeting since the Paris Agreement was signed at COP21.
Nevertheless, Covid continues to pose challenges, particularly when starting out in a new job.
Rodger said: “There are still some restrictions that we all have to be aware of and we have to work with. I think Covid is still probably the major challenge for the industry at this time.
“For me personally, I think it’s about making sure AREG is as well-known as it can be in the north-east.”
Excitingly for AREG, the ongoing ScotWind offshore leasing means there should be a raft of opportunities for the supply chain on the horizon.
Results of the process are due to be announced early next year and companies have already pledged to invest billions if they are picked to develop the next generation of offshore wind farms.
Rodger said: “There will be opportunities in areas such as logistics, management and engineering – the area will benefit from ScotWind, I’m sure of that.
“I’m delighted because I’m aware that quite a few of the ScotWind companies are also joining AREG.”
It’s also hoped the leasing process will light the way for a ‘just transition’ in Scotland, something Rodger says is “extremely important”.
“The vital thing here is to ensure things are developed fairly and that people are not disadvantaged by the move to new technologies,” he said.
“There’s going to be a lot of focus on making sure that we transition in a reasonable, open and transparent way.
“From an oil and gas perspective, we need to avoid losing skilled workers. There needs to be a way for them to be part of the transition.”
Having spent so many years in the north-east, it is understandable that as Rodgers takes up the top job at AREG, he is keen to highlight the connection between renewables and oil and gas.
There are concerns that the inevitable North Sea hydrocarbon wind down could leave Europe’s oil and gas capital high and dry.
To avoid this, the oil and gas industry in the city is making bold moves to diversify, and many companies already have a foot in both camps.
Rodger said: “Oil and gas is extremely important to the renewable energy industry and vice versa.
“Over the last 50 years, this area has clearly built up a world class oil and gas industry and we need those skills and that expertise, and also of course importantly the investment from oil and gas into renewables. It will be a collaborative effort and both parties need to work together.”
He added: “Aberdeen has a fantastic history of adapting through the decades and the centuries. It was a whaling city for many years, there was the vital trade of the sail boats that built up around the harbour. For Aberdeen and north-east Scotland to adapt once more to renewables would be a great opportunity for this part of the world”.