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Edinburgh aims to become
‘Davos of Green Finance’
By Brian Baker, Senior Correspondent
13 October 2010: Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond told an audience of investors and industrialists in late September that a new conference to be held annually in Edinburgh on low carbon investment will make the city known as the 'Davos of Green Finance'.
Salmond’s administration and several Scottish based international companies have launched this event because the difficulty in getting investment on satisfactory terms is currently a major stumbling block to the switch to a low carbon future. This is particularly important for those countries, like Portugal, Scotland and Denmark, which aim for a significant manufacturing and exporting renewables sector.
Did the conference come up with any answers? Well, possibly.
Bloomberg’s Alistair McCrone, from the financial and business information company Bloomberg. Chaired the conference flagged up the scale of the challenges facing local, regional and national administrations in securing the pace and extent of investment finance needed to create their low carbon economies of the future.
McCrone warned that the current threats by the Spanish government to re-negotiate the terms of feed-in tariffs to solar companies would frighten off global investors. He said investor confidence would be harmed by any moves to use clean energy in any global protectionist actions
The Scottish Government has set the highest targets for carbon emissions reductions in Europe but the UK’s clean energy base is low. UK Energy Minister Charles Hendry told the conference that the “potential is extraordinary but we are currently third worst in Europe in renewables. We have a shared responsibility to put in place the policies which will make investment happen.”.
Participants agreed that investment capital from the private sector for renewable energy schemes was difficult to secure as the risks are seen as to high and the too low by many lenders, especially debt lenders. This is to be expected currently in the emerging wave and tidal technologies but is also a problem in off-shore wind where construction and installation weaknesses are yet to be resolved.
For cities and towns, energy efficiency for the end user and the financing of small-scale renewables infrastructure are of at least as much importance as large-scale investment.
The need for financial experts, manufacturers and government specialists to focus more time and skills on energy efficiency and the local perspective was recognised at the event.
But for all levels of government and for populations, the construction of a grid system which connects Europe up is vital to their ability to secure their targets and create clean economies in their areas.
The conference, attended by banking and other financial professionals as well as manufacturing and legal companies, heard the European Commission’s Georg Abramovich emphasise that the prospects for agreement and a go-ahead for grid upgrading across Europe utilising sub-sea cables in the Mediterranean, North and Baltic Seas were good. He said that the EU Commissioners recognised it was one of Europe’s key tasks in the transition to low carbon.
Georg Abramovich said “If you want to be successful with the EU target for renewables you need grids.grids.grids. This can only happen if we have a new feeling across the states. I am very happy that the North Sea countries are discussing together the future of renewables and off-shore grids. We need a new framework for investment into these grids that cross the North Sea and the cross state boundaries.”
At the conference Nathan Goode, of global accountancy firm Grant Thornton, described the work they were doing on the resources and technologies, which cities need to be able to better access to pursue their carbon emission reduction goals.
He said cities and city regions drove economies so must drive the transition to low carbon. Goode told attendees “locally based funds drawing on individual, businesses and public sector investors, with sustainability as core criteria, will be place- based, long-term and relatively low-risk.” A report will be published later in 2010.
In his closing address, Scotland’s First Minister announced that the Low Carbon Investment Conference in Edinburgh would be an annual event and claimed it would echo the Davos World Economic Forum in bringing international perspectives to current challenges. “Next year, energy efficiency will be the main theme of the event,” he said.
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