The conference -- organised by the government's Energy Technology Support Unit (ETSU) with support from the European Union's ALTENER programme and the Association of Electricity Producers -- covered renewable energy in the light of employment, new business, rural diversification, community ownership and tourism. According to ETSU's Tony Duffin these issues should be taken seriously. "The conference highlighted the need to bring home to people that we must look at these effects which have not been addressed fully by the renewable energy industry."
He points out that some socio-economic impacts were not foreseen. "Forewarning of the resistance to energy from waste plant or wind farms in the UK might have enabled the industry to prepare better development plans," he says. "Greater awareness of rural employment issues could assist in the process of gaining acceptance of wind turbines by promoting the benefits to local communities."
A major influence on the performance of renewable energy in the market is the "policy context" -- or how energy policy is derived, says Ian McChesney from British firm of consultants Energy for Sustainable Development (ESD). It can either be market based, planned, or developed for the benefit of the community. Addressing the socio-economic conference, he pointed out that the impact of renewables has been greater where the policy context supports better market access and places more value on the renewable contribution.
According to projections by ESD, present day energy policies in Europe will lead to a renewable penetration of 105 Mtoe primary energy equivalent in 2005. It will involve ECU 50 billion of investment and employ 150,000 people. This figure is close to the ALTENER target of 109 Mtoe by 2005. However, improvements to the policy context could raise the penetration to 157 Mtoe by 2005 with investment of ECU 133 billion and employment for 500,00 people, he claimed.