We need to keep talking.
A minor domestic difference of opinion recently reminded me of advice I received some years ago, to remember to talk….
Communication has never been easier, yet talking to each other is becoming harder. Active engagement is at the heart of all successful developments, even the smallest of projects has multiple stakeholders, each with their own part to play, each with a piece of the jigsaw.
As a business, we have breathed new life into a 100 year old hydro scheme. Over the last three years it has delivered 200,000kWhr of renewable energy, powered by water from one of our major and highly protected rivers.
We have installed a hybrid renewable system in the remotest, environmentally sensitive, part of Scotland, removing the use of nearly 100,000 litres of diesel in the last four years. These projects, and others like them, are made possible by meeting with stakeholders and talking; sharing ideas, compromising, finding a way to fit each puzzle piece together.
Over the last 2 years our industry and the way it works has changed. The drive towards net zero and a just transition should be positive, breathing new life into the micro renewable industry that has stumbled in many areas since end of the Feed in Tariff . Micro hydro development plans have stalled, the micro wind sector has all but collapsed. Solar installations seem straightforward on paper, but have become entangled by ever changing complexity with grid connections, even at the smallest scale. This has resulted in the loss of a skilled workforce, not just in terms of installers but also in dedicated, experienced local regulatory teams.
However, we are not being given the opportunity to talk, literally. New policies and regulations are being published at a high level by centralised teams, with no practical platform for feedback. The ability to appraise projects on their individual scale, merits and environment has been lost in a sea of online application forms, meaning creative solutions to our energy problems are not being adopted, we can no longer work as a team to piece the puzzle together.
We know that rules and regulations are there to protect people and the environment, but they need not be inflexible, remote and impractical. We need to understand when legislation changes and be able to engage with the system when needed. At the moment, it costs more to gain permission for a micro wind turbine than the turbine itself costs, we have guidance that is being implemented but hasn’t yet been published and critical definitions that no one will define (yes, we’re talking curtilage…).
Technology is advancing, enabling us to achieve more, but we humans are becoming the obstruction to delivering the very targets that we have set ourselves.
We all hold a piece of the jigsaw. If we can talk again, we can work together to complete the puzzle and see the bigger picture.
We are ready to talk…….