interviews

Ivan Lima, Client Relationship Manager, UK Trade & Investment: "We were able to help Sharp expand their PV module production"

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In this exclusive interview, Renewable Energy Magazine talks to Ivan Lima, Client Relationship Manager of UK Trade and Investment, about why the UK is looking for inward investment from foreign renewable energy companies and what his organisation can do to help.

UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) is the UK government’s organisation that helps businesses locate in the UK and grow internationally. Every year UKTI helps hundreds of firms, from hi-tech start-ups to global industry leaders, discover global growth from a UK base, encouraging them to look to the UK as their global partner of choice. It also helps UK-based businesses rise to the exciting opportunities and challenges that globalisation offers and ensure their success in international markets.

Ivan Lima is part of the Renewables & Environment Investment Projects Team in UK Trade & Investment, which sees renewable energy as a strategic area worthy of special attention, especially since the UK government announced its UK Renewable Energy Strategy outlining comprehensive plans to increase renewable energy usage to 15% by 2020.

The UK government has calculated that around £100 billion of new investment will be required for the UK to meet these levels of deployment by 2020 and Ivan Lima’s team searches for foreign companies with experience and knowledge of renewables wishing to invest in the UK, to help the UK achieve the targets set and build wealth.

On a recent visit to Barcelona (Spain), Ivan met up with Renewable Energy Magazine to discuss the work of his team and why he was visiting Spain.

Interview date: September, 2009

Interviewer: Toby Price

Firstly Ivan, could you explain a little about how your team and UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) in general help foreign companies invest in the UK?

I work in the Renewables & Environment Investment Projects Team which is based in UKTI’s London headquarters. Its remit is to assist overseas companies in the renewable energy and environmental technologies sectors to bring their Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to the UK, as well as assisting existing UK investors to expand further into the UK. There are four other Investment Project Teams covering other priority industry sectors including advanced engineering, biotech, electronics and ICT.

We work closely with UKTI colleagues in British Embassies worldwide who undertake a great deal of work in identifying and engaging with potential investors into the UK. We also work closely with the Regional Development Agencies in England and the Devolved Administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who help us to identify their respective regions’ offers for each project or industry sector.

Finally, through an extensive network of Whitehall, government agency and industry networks in the UK, we are able to offer up-to-the-minute advice and introductions for new and existing inward investors. In my experience, each project is unique and the service we offer is tailored to suit.

Could you give us a couple of specific examples of renewable energy or environmental goods & services companies you have helped and how?

Two examples I would give are Sharp Solar and Clipper Windpower:

Sharp wanted to produce photovoltaic panels in the UK and chose their Wrexham factory as the production site. We worked in close association with Welsh Assembly Government when they agreed to assist Sharp in their adaptation of the Wrexham plant for the assembly of PV modules. With the help of our investor development network we were able to help Sharp expand their PV module production. We worked in a virtual project team between London, Wrexham and Osaka to ensure that Sharp benefited from seamless advice and assistance.

Californian based wind turbine manufacturer, Clipper Windpower came to the UK to construct and test a 7.5-MW offshore turbine which has since been upgraded to a 10-MW unit – among the world’s largest under development. Clipper decided to use world-leading blade test and manufacturing facilities at NaREC (New and Renewable Energy Centre) in the North East England to engineer, construct and test their prototype. The investment was the culmination of two years’ collaboration between Clipper Windpower, One North East, the then BERR and UKTI to help bring the project to the region and identify supply chain development. One North East provided a £5m package of support into the 'Britannia project'.

Why are you in Spain? What are your objectives and what do you hope to take back with you to the UK?

Our FDI delivery is very much dependent on working closely with the client’s home HQ, as this is where investments are made. Local knowledge in the home country and the vital role it plays in identifying potential investors into the UK. Spain is an important target market for UK FDI as it has a well-developed capability in renewable energy, especially in the areas of wind and solar energy, both of which are important to the UK.

A close working relationship with our colleagues in the Spanish and Iberian network is essential and a physical visit has much more of an impact than written or telephone contact. I have spent the week with the Spanish teams in Barcelona and Madrid, accompanying investment colleagues to meetings and company visits with prospective and existing investors in the renewable energy and environmental technology sectors.

For the businesses we meet, it gives a positive message to see that UKTI HQ from London views the project with sufficient importance to come out and see them. For our colleagues it also gives them additional support as well as the opportunity for us to personally share direction from HQ to help us all work better together.

In terms of what I will take back: some really good client contact and plenty of actions to help them pursue potential FDI in the UK.

April 2010 (the date when the UK’s FiT scheme will be in place) is rapidly approaching. The scheme focuses very much on promoting distributed PV solar and small wind energy generation. With this in mind, is UKTI focusing on companies in the same areas to encourage them to invest in the up-and-coming distributed renewable generation markets in the UK?

Yes we are.

The feed-in tariff for renewable electricity is very important for the UK’s RE targets as it is a practical and more accessible route to financial incentives for smaller projects compared to the ROCs systems. It is also what RE companies have been calling for, given that countries like Germany and Spain have had them for some time already.

The scheme is designed to facilitate relatively small scale renewable investment in projects up to 5 MW capacity, so this is likely to stimulate small scale wind clusters, and biomass projects as well as investment in PV and wind projects at a scale associated with commercial, industrial and household developments.

What other sectors of the renewable energy industry are of most interest to your team in terms of bringing foreign investment, experience and know-how into the UK to help it develop its own renewables industry?

As I mentioned earlier, we have also been working with offshore wind projects, biomass, biofuels and micro-generation. In addition, we are keen on anaerobic digestion and marine renewables. Of course, the regulatory incentives are the drivers for this market and help to create the business opportunity for FDI.

One experience in Spain in particular has been that distributed renewable generation systems have not prospered despite the FiT scheme. In general, businesses have used the scheme to develop commercial solar plants and wind farms and the scheme has not encouraged small businesses and home owners to install systems for their own consumption and sale of excess to the network. Although Spain has considerably increased its renewables share since the FiT scheme was introduced, a large distributed generation resource remains untapped at residential and small-business level. How will the UK FiT scheme avoid this scenario and how do you envisage foreign companies playing a role in developing distributed renewable generation in the UK?

The incentives are structured according to the technology as well as the scale of projects below 5 MW. This is designed to provide incentives which will appeal both to commercial and domestic scale installations. Projects will earn the feed-in tariff for all the electricity they generate, with an additional income for any electricity exported to the grid. This is expected to provide a stimulus to all sectors, including the residential and small business sectors.

There is an appetite for renewable energy within this sector, as evidenced by the large number of applications under the Low Carbon Buildings Grant Scheme, which has been used to stimulate the market in advance of the introduction of the FIT.

What are the most outstanding services UKTI offers foreign companies?

In the case of FDI, UKTI offers an extensive, seamless and tailored service from initial enquiry to landing a project in the UK. We provide advice on the UK market, taxation, employment, visas, comparative data with competitor nations and markets to name but a few. More importantly, we can provide unrivalled access to UK Government policy makers, delivery agencies including Regional and Devolved Administrations, as well as sector experts and organisations.

And don’t forget, all of this is free of charge. It’s not often you can get something for nothing these days!

For additional information:

UK Trade and Investment

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