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Energy expert highlights need for R&D investment

A US energy expert has highlighted the need for continual investment in research if Scotland is to develop an engineering base for the low carbon and renewable energy sector similar to that which supports the oil and gas industry.

ENERGISED: Former Google executive and White House adviser Dan Reicher says Scotland must continue to fund renewables research. Picture: Mark Mainz
ENERGISED: Former Google executive and White House adviser Dan Reicher says Scotland must continue to fund renewables research. Picture: Mark Mainz

Dan Reicher, who served as an energy adviser to three White House administrations, was commenting after giving a masterclass in low carbon technologies to a business audience in Glasgow.

The far-reaching presentation looked in detail at the roles technology, policy and finance must play for low carbon projects to succeed and command a share of an industry expected to require $38 trillion (£22.8trn) of infrastructure to meet energy demand between now and 2035.

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Mr Reicher, a former Google executive, delivered an upbeat assessment of the progress being made to develop the low carbon sector in Scotland, stating it appeared to be striking the right balance between power generation and energy efficiency.

Asked what Scotland could learn from the US to help it build an engineering and manufacturing base able to support low carbon industries, Mr Reicher said: "Obviously the engineering base is critical - that's the fundamental need.

"You've got to continue to make progress on the technologies.

"What we've been able to do in the US, and it's probably in a certain way our greatest strength, is that we, through thick and thin, have continued to spend significant amounts in energy R&D (research and development).

"And the second thing related to that is we have a very strong system of national laboratories. Big laboratories and one of them is the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado.

"It has a very significant budget each year and is the place where significant research and testing is done. [It's] where industry can go and try out ideas.

"That willingness of government to invest in university-based research, industry research and the national labs has given us some strength. More than anything else that's probably our clearest asset."

Mr Reicher, currently executive director of Stanford University's Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance was the main speaker in an event hosted by The Herald and Scottish Enterprise.

Taking questions after his speech, alongside Scottish Enterprise strategy manager John Crawford, Mr Reicher was asked how Scotland could overcome opposition to renewable energy projects, which often focus on the aesthetic appearance of wind farms.

He said such issues, as crystallised by Donald Trump's antipathy towards offshore wind farms, were not unheard of in the US.

Stating proof of success is often the factor which can silence the critics, Mr Reicher added: "There's a lot of commonality to the issues, to the opportunities when it comes to low carbon energy.

"I think we're all in a growing stage, we all have growing pains.

"I think you have struck a good balance here between the power generation side and the energy efficiency side, and it's got to be pursuing both in a very robust way."

Mr Crawford added: "We are committing huge resource internally to try to realise these benefits for Scotland, not only to attract major players such as Siemens and Areva, but to get the Scottish supply chain into global development."

See this week's Sunday Herald for further coverage.

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