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Virtual SHREC Highlands and Islands renewables event is a big hit online

By John Davidson

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Nicky Marr interviews George Baxter of Green Power International.
Nicky Marr interviews George Baxter of Green Power International.

The first ever virtual Scottish Highlands and Islands Renewable Energy Conference (SHREC) proved to be a big hit after being launched on April 30.

The popular event, organised each year by leading law firm Harper Macleod in partnership with Highland News and Media (HNM), had been due to hold its 11th edition on that day at the Kingsmills Hotel in Inverness.

SHREC takes place alongside the Highlands and Islands Renewable Energy Awards, which were launched by HNM last year. Both events have been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

However, already the online SHREC has reached more than three times as many people as attended last year's physical event – with that number still growing.

The virtual conference featured video contributions from the speakers who had been due to feature in person, and is now available free online for anyone interested in the renewables sector to view.

It offers great insights into how the current lockdown situation is affecting the sector as well as how it might fare in the months and years ahead. Tied in with this, the overall theme of dealing with another crisis – the climate change emergency – makes it essential viewing.

David Bone, senior partner and head of energy and natural resources at Harper Macleod, opened Virtual SHREC and was delighted with the response to Harper Macleod and partners HNM putting the package together despite the lockdown restrictions.

He said: "When we knew that the coronavirus outbreak would prevent us from gathering physically for SHREC, and for the renewable energy awards, we were determined that the show would go on in some way. It says so much about those in the industry and its resilience that our speakers felt the same way and agreed to take the time and effort to be part of this virtual event – which has already surpassed our expectations with around 400 views.

"We have some great speakers, with real insight into what's going on in the sector locally, and as usual that is what separates SHREC from other national events. The event is free to view and we hope as many people as possible take the opportunity to do so."

David Bone, whose team at Harper Macleod continues to assist clients with renewable energy developments and deals during the lockdown period, opened the virtual conference by looking at the real key areas for the renewables sector in the Highlands and Islands.

He was followed by George Baxter, director of development at GreenPower International, in conversation with Nicky Marr on the subject of dealing with the other global emergency which will still be there after Covid-19 – climate change. In particular, he examined the importance of changes to Scotland's planning regime in allowing the country to really change the way we live and build on the achievements to date by taking things to the next level in terms of transport, heating and much more.

Audrey MacIver, director of energy and low carbon at HIE, also considered the climate change emergency and more specifically how the Highlands and Islands can be an exemplar region in the transition to zero-carbon emissions. She explores how clean energy and the net-zero emissions target could play a big part when it comes time to reflate the economy, and in turn provide optimism for the recovery in the Highlands.

Nicky Marr then led a panel conversation with Terry Stebbings of Proterra Energy and Ryan Felber of Energy Efficiency Business Support – both of whom believe renewables can have a big part to play come the end of the current crisis.

The online package ends with long-time SHREC chair Jeremy Sainsbury OBE, director at Natural Power, who focuses on the blueprint for a clean energy future – particularly given that life is unlikely to return to what was considered 'normal' for a considerable time, if ever.

How to watch

You can watch the full virtual SHREC, which in total runs for 1 hour and 15 minutes, below or you can choose to watch any of the individual segments. See the full playlist here.

The full SHREC and the 2020 Highlands and Islands Renewable Energy Awards have been rescheduled for September 24 at the Kingsmills Hotel in Inverness.

For more details about SHREC see www.harpermacleod.co.uk/events and for information about the awards visit www.hnmedia.co.uk/renewable-energy-day

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