Energy and engineering businesses in the North of Scotland are being urged to act now to seize opportunities in the renewables sector – or face losing out to competition from elsewhere.

Ian Couper, chief executive of North Scotland Industries Group, said the region was ideally placed to be the country’s hub for the renewable industry, providing energy for Scotland and the rest of the UK.

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The influx of activity in renewables could lead to the creation of hundreds of jobs in Highlands and Islands and a multi million pound boost to the local economy, Mr Couper said.

But local companies needed to make themselves more aware of the industries requirements or face losing the potential prize.

He said: “We are continually trying to drive home the message to companies that this area will be producing a large proportion of Scotland and the UK’s energy needs in the coming years. There is a golden opportunity for the supply chain in the Highlands and Islands to win that business, but to do that they have to come fully up to speed with developer requirements, timescales and a number of other issues.

“If we don’t fully appreciate how big the renewable industry could be for us, or we think the work will be handed to us just because of our proximity to the action, we will miss out on what could be the greatest industrial opportunity for the region in our lifetime.

“On the other hand we must guard against rushing into the market without proper consideration. We recognise that many planned renewable projects in our area are still a few years off, and the potential danger of committing too early without a full understanding of the scope of work involved is one that concerns many businesses planning to enter the market. However, if we’re not ready, or there is no awareness of Highland and Islands capabilities by deployment time, the business could conceivably go elsewhere. This is a serious issue and one we would urge the Government and other bodies to address.

Mr Couper was speaking ahead of a major renewable energy supply chain update seminar, called REact 2011, which is to be held on 17 February, at the Drumossie Hotel, Inverness.

The event, which has been organised by NSIG, is open to both members and non members and will provide attendees with an excellent opportunity to receive renewable energy updates and important background information of relevance to the entire North of Scotland and Islands area. Presenters will include the Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Renewables, Scottish Power Renewables, the Crown Estate, and NSIG member Global Energy, responding on behalf of the supply chain.

Mr Couper said: “We’ve already had a plenty of interest from people planning to attend REact 2011– so much so that we are looking to make it an annual event. However, there are still a few places left for those who want to find out from the people in the know about how they see the renewable industry developing and the opportunities that could exist.

“With the recent welcome news that we may be seeing some movement regarding Nigg, and the potential for jobs and the economy that would bring, the timing of this event to discuss the renewables industry could not be better.”

“I would urge anybody who thinks they may be able to capitalise on the renewables opportunity to join us at REact 2011. It could just change your business.”

Anyone wishing to attend REact 2011 can book online at www.nsig.co.uk <http://www.nsig.co.uk>

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