Yesterday here at RenewableUK we heard the sad news that Calum Davidson, the ex Head of Energy at Highlands & Islands Enterprise had passed away. Calum, as those of you who were lucky enough to know him will be aware, was a leader in the renewable energy sector for many years, and was responsible for so much of all the work which put the Highlands & Islands on the map as a renewable energy powerhouse. He stood down last year after learning he had an aggressive tumour; itself terrible news which he announced with typical candour and vigour.
While I was Chief Executive at Scottish Renewables, I was a regular user of the phrase that “Scotland is the Saudi Arabia of renewables.” I adapted that from Professor Ian Bryden. The phrase was taken up by Alex Salmond and others, as over time renewables shifted from being an interesting but marginal technology to become one of the centre pieces of Scotland’s economy. It was people like Calum of course who not only had the vision, but worked to organise Government and agencies like HIE to deliver this.
In 2015 HIE was 40 years old and I had the pleasure to see it receive a Judges Award at the Scottish Green Energy Awards, collected by Calum on behalf of his team. Having been part of Scottish Renewables when it established the awards, and then part of the judging panel, that was a moment of immense satisfaction for me. Afterwards I blogged that “as an enterprise body HIE shows the very best of the public sector; always wanting to push things on, find ways to tackle problems and make a difference to communities and businesses across northern Scotland. At RenewableUK we see many great examples of work by local enterprise partnerships and other agencies, but HIE remains something special. If the UK Government could drink from the HIE water cooler for just one day, imagine the difference it could make. I write this because HIE has shown that partnership matters. Industry and public bodies working together with a common purpose to bring economic, social and environmental benefits. For HIE, renewable energy is an obvious choice as an economic opportunity given the fantastic resource there. But many seem oblivious to what renewable energy has helped us achieve.”
That description is as true today as it was then. HIE has delivered great work over many years and has been behind the renewables sector every step of the way as we’ve journeyed from challenger to mainstream. The growth of our industry is thanks to people like Calum who backed us and were ambitious about what could be achieved, and the benefit we could secure for people and businesses across the Highlands and Islands. I hope that the achievements of our sector can be a fitting legacy to sit alongside Calum’s pride in his Cromarty roots, his fantastic photography and his verve and zest for life which will be sadly missed by all who know him.