Conference dominated by talk of the future
Talk of long-term funding certainty dominated the agenda item at Scottish Renewables' Offshore Wind and Supply Chain Conference last week, as the sector stands poised for the results of CfD deliberations this month.
With six consented projects totalling up to 4.15GW, the scale of ambition for Scottish waters is undeniable.
But discussions about the future of the sector were prompted in part by the upcoming decision on the first CfD allocation round, and in part by the spectre of a judicial review of planning consents requested by RSPB Scotland.
The conference was attended by all major European offshore wind players, including Repsol Nuevas Energias, EDPR, DONG, Mainstream Renewable Power, Siemens, EWEA, ScottishPower Renewables, AREVA and SSE.
Jonathan Cole, ScottishPower Renewables' MD, summed up the zeitgeist on day one, saying: "Working in this industry is a rollercoaster: one day optimism, the next day despair.
"It feels like now as if we are an industry in retreat – that our hopes have been raised and very rapidly confounded. But we must remind ourselves that we are an industry which is growing and creating jobs.
"There are a lot of reasons for us all to be optimistic about this sector, but we need a much more stable political environment in which to operate."
That optimism carried through to a debate on the readiness of Scotland's supply chain, where BVG Associates' Alan Duncan hailed the UK as the focus of the world's offshore renewables industry, but warned: "There are potentially a lot of jobs for us, but they are not going to be easy wins – we must look at what we can do to displace existing supply chains in Denmark and Germany.
"Be assured, though: the UK will continue to lead the world in offshore wind to 2030, and there is no other industry which gives us the chance to do that."
Cost reduction in the industry – led in part by the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, headquartered in Glasgow – was also a hot topic at the event, held at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre.
Benj Sykes, Country Manager for DONG Energy's UK wind power business, told how keeping costs down would mean a larger industry, and hinted that future certainty from government would be the single thing most likely to drive success.
He said: "If we get costs down quickly then the scale of deployment will increase, and if we do not then it will slow.
"But to ensure we have a competitive and sustainable long term industry we need the next government to be ambitious and speedy about deploying the reminding funds in the levy control framework. We need to see what the runway looks like post-2020. Essentially, we need some sense of direction and scale."
Industry body Scottish Renewables organised the conference, which is the largest of its kind in the country.
Lindsay Leask, Senior Policy Manager for Offshore Renewables at the organisation, said: "The end of 2014 was a turbulent time for offshore wind in Scotland, and 2015 looks to be continuing in the same vein.
"However, our ambition for the sector hasn't been diminished, and the sense of commitment and perseverance at this year's conference leaves me in no doubt we will overcome the challenges ahead of us.