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What Can the UK Renewable Industry Learn from the Rest of the World?

Two years ago the UK renewables market was booming; solar panels offered consumers a strong return-on-investment and at the UN Climate Change Conference heads of state from around the world came together in a pledge to cut their country’s carbon emissions.

The UK believed in the green agenda and politician’s waxed lyrical about the importance of renewable energy and hitting 2020 targets.

But was it simply talk? A lack of clear and lengthy green policy, fright stories about cheap Chinese solar panels exploding, and NIMBY locals who refused to live near wind farms, meant the renewables industry took a hit.

Britain’s economic situation didn’t help things either, and suddenly politicians realised the green agenda was the least of their concerns when banks needed to be bailed out.

But did we miss a trick where other countries pushed on? Many believe the economy and ecology are not mutually exclusive and arguments for green industry are compelling.

The U.S. solar industry grew by 125 percent from Q2 2011 to Q2 2012, making it one of the fastest growing sectors in the U.S. economy.

In the UK trade body RenewableUK said by 2020 the offshore wind industry could be worth £8 billion and create 70,000 jobs and high profile names like Google, Sainsbury's and the U.S. Army continue to invest in renewable energy projects.

Over in the Middle East many countries use free solar energy to power their homes and businesses so as not to waste their valuable oil, which they can then sell on.

Closer to home Germany and Denmark pushed on with the renewable agenda, meaning while the UK’s industry struggled, our European neighbours was not hit as hard and if you were to visit you would see the highways lined with solar panels.

It is also important not to forget in some places renewable energy is simply the most efficient and safe mode of energy production.

In parts of Africa, Asia and Australia the sun’s strength and abundance means solar PV is by far a better option than any other energy source and in rural areas, it can be ideal, as deliveries of traditional fuel can be precarious.

The sentiment was echoed in Westminster this month when Tessa Munt the Lib-Dem MP for Wells suggested community solar PV projects could be beneficial to UK rural areas that suffer from power cuts and a tempestuous energy supply.

Renewable energy specialists The EcoExperts said: “While renewables are fantastic because they are clean and green, really the industry, governments and ad agencies should have realised and advertised their return-on-investment potential and other functions.

“People or businesses who invest in renewable energy in countries with feed-in-tariffs can often make ROIs of 8-13%, much higher than your average bank. People simply don’t know their fantastic benefits and this is the fault of the governments and trade unions.

“Governments should create a clear and lengthy green policy and stick to it. This would encourage investment and help the economy. Their other benefits should also be advertised, making clear that renewables are desirable for more than just their green credentials.”

Renewables could also be helped with high-profile celebrity backing. In America the U.S. Army has installed solar PV in some bases, but if solar panel companies were to work alongside the forces, perhaps in a sponsorship deal, they could see their profile and desirability raised.

Clear targeted marketing is essential so everyone is aware they can invest as little as £5 in a community project or millions into a huge farm.

There is only a certain amount of oil and coal left in the ground and increasing energy demand from developing nations means something must be done urgently to ensure fuel security.

It is up to governments and investors to work together to ensure a stable renewable future that helps bolster local economies.

Lima Curtis writes for TheEcoExperts.co.uk.

Lead image: UK flag via Shutterstock

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Lima Curtis writes about matters of energy and the environment for many sites including the Independent, Earth Times and theecoexperts.co.uk

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