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Jim Mellon, the financier who predicted the current world financial crisis two years before it happened has given his weighty support to solar energy as both a means of replacing fossil fuels and of creating healthy yields for investors. In a recent rich list compiled by The Times newspaper, they made special mention of entrepreneurs who have branched out in to renewable investment. Among these, Jim Mellon features highly because of his reputation as a man with a track record of forecasting market trends twinned with a portfolio of shrewd investments.

Mellon, based in the Isle of Man and with a net worth of around £500m is established as one of the largest employers on the island and although some of his assets have come under pressure from the international financial crisis, he continues to look towards renewables as the future.

Jim Mellon was quoted in The Times as saying,

“Solar is genuinely clean, it ticks all sorts of zeitgeist boxes. Within five years, solar power will be as cheap as oil and gas without the subsidy,” adding that, “It will be bigger than the internet in five years”

Mellon backed up his words last summer by investing in a mining company called Emerging Metals which focuses on metals used in the manufacture of the latest photovoltaic technology. It is believed that in 2010, with the introduction of the feed-in tariff in the UK, there will be a boom in solar investment as the government will guarantee premium rates for megawatts generated by small solar and other renewable producers. Leading entrepreneurs on the rich list have already made this connection and are starting to back renewables before they boom.

In a bid to find a solution to the energy crisis facing their country, Pakistani delegates have met in the UK as part of an alternative energy drive which has been necessitated by a fear of dependence on fossil fuels. During their visit to the UK, the Pakistani group toured various successful renewable energy projects around the country and consulted specialists in order to find possible viable alternatives to fossil fuels which have proved not only dirty, but also expensive and precarious in the region.

Arif Allauddin, Chief Executive of Alternative Energy Development Board who led the delegation on the four day visit highlighted both the need for investment and a need for foreign specialist help in developing a successful Pakistani renewable energy program. After visiting a wind farm near Glasgow, Allauddin asserted that for Pakistan, wind energy represents the best alternative to fossil fuels and that the Pakistani government has already set aside large swathes of land for the construction of turbines between Karachi and Hyderabad.

The Pakistani Alternative Energy Development Board has been keen to highlight the fact that renewable investment in their country offers very attractive returns, using the current example of a Turkish company apparently already generating power wind power in Thatta. The UK government, having already passed the Energy Bill in November of last year, has provisions that will consolidate and help attract further investment in renewables in this country. The proposed feed-in tariff, set to be introduced in 2010 will entice investors by guaranteeing a fixed rate for energy fed in to the national grid from green sources. The Pakistani delegation claims that their government is taking similar measures in order to attract UK investors in to their renewable market.

Having already been impressed by some of the renewable operations currently producing power in the UK, Allauddin made clear the fact that Pakistan will, sometime in the near future have to start generating a far greater percentage of its megawatts from renewable sources if it is to protect itself from any future fossil fuel crises.

The Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond has warned against investing heavily in nuclear energy explaining that it would divert much needed funds away from clean, renewable sources of energy. The Scottish Minister has asserted the need for a coherent investment program in green energy sources, both as a means of slowing climate change and helping the government to meet its green target, which in Scotland is producing 20 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Replying to questions in the Scottish Parliament, Alex Salmond stated,

“Anything you invest – and it will be billions – in nuclear power is billions taken away from clean technology and in renewable technology. We have great prospects in our renewables sector – I think that is a huge priority.”

Although there is a general acceptance that renewable sources will be essential for future energy production, nuclear is often considered to be a very real and viable alternative to fossil fuel production. Lord Adair, Chairman for the Committee for climate change remains an exponent of nuclear energy as a possible solution to future energy production but there has been a general move away from nuclear of late partly due to concerns over safety. This was highlighted by the recent Bradwell Power Station case whereby it was found guilty of leaking radioactive material from its reactors over a period of fourteen years.

The Energy Bill of last year sets out provisions for the introduction of a feed-in tariff in 2010 as a means of attracting investment in renewable energy production. It is believed that once there is a coherent tariff system in place in the UK, investment in green energy will become much more widespread and more attractive compared to nuclear which is often criticised for being both unsafe and expensive.

The UK Energy Bill, which outlines the introduction of a feed-in tariff system has been given further support, this time by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH).

The government will be required to introduce a feed-in tariff scheme whereby small, renewable electricity, heat and gas generators, such as communities, schools and businesses would be guaranteed a premium rate for any energy fed back into grid. The CIH have commended the new clause in the Energy Bill, stating that it will help businesses and communities generate clean, renewable energy.

Sarah Webb, CIH Chief Executive, said:  “A feed-in tariff for renewable energy would give the much needed financial support to communities to take control of their own energy generation.  The opportunities to reduce carbon emissions, reduce fuel poverty and bring communities together to benefit all their residents are enormous.”

It is widely believed that, at a time when people are becoming more aware of the necessity for renewable alternatives, the generation of power in public spaces such as schools and petrol stations will represent a positive social project.