Seize the Day

The announcement this week that BP is to finance a new materials research centre to support the energy sector at the University of Manchester is great news for the region.  Manchester’s Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences will form the hub for a global network of academic research into anti-corrosive materials and coatings that will enable the energy sector to explore and exploit fuel sources in the earth’s most extreme and remote locations.

While it’s a significant accolade for Manchester University and a move that will help secure fuel supply for future generations, for the renewables sector it is a stark reminder that alternative energy sources remain just that…… ‘alternative’.

While often the focus in the renewables sector is on the relative merits of different technologies, the fact remains that the competitive marketplace is not just a battle between renewable technologies: it remains a war between traditional and environmentally cleaner energy generation. While the fuel giants pay lip service and, in some cases, genuinely invest in alternative technologies, the seismic shift that would be required for a £multi-billion business to alter the entire focus of its commercial strategy is inconceivable; certainly in the short term.

For the renewables sector, this is a reality check.  It pinpoints the fact that, despite the giant leaps forward we have taken in uptake of renewable technologies, there is still a long, long road ahead.  However, once we’ve acknowledged that fact, we can also start to see the possibilities.

Traditional energy generation may remain an important part of the mix for the time being, but those who are pioneering alternatives now are at the vanguard of a seachange that is still gathering pace. The opportunity now is to develop ways in which renewable technologies can work together and complement traditional technologies to aid the inevitable transition. That means taking a more holistic approach and understanding how traditional power sources can be made more energy efficient – through voltage optimisation for example – as well as how they can be replaced.

That understanding must not only characterise the renewables sector; it must also be conveyed to the end user. Those that can demonstrate their expertise through effective marketing will give themselves a head start in seizing the opportunity…..and now is the time!

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