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Big Green Challenge finalists gather at Holyrood for hot debates

05 June 2013

School pupils from eight schools across the Highlands and Islands are gathering at the Scottish Parliament on Friday (7 June) to debate one of the country's hottest issues - renewable energy. The Big Green Challenge finals are being held at Holyrood and will see the teams competing for a trip to see renewable energy in action.

The Big Green Challenge debating competition, open to all S1-3 pupils across the region, is part of an education and awareness raising programme run by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), and aims to encourage pupils to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of renewable energy.

The high profile event is sponsored by two major energy industry companies, SSE and Mitsubishi Power Systems Europe (MPSE).

It will be hosted by STV weather presenter and meteorologist Sean Batty and will be judged by Karen Anderson, SSE, Jamie Taylor, Artemis Intelligent Power, a group company of MPSE, Judith Patten, All-Energy, and Craig Spence, HIE’s board member.

The eight schools debating in the finals are:

  • Alness Academy, Alness
  • Charleston Academy, Inverness
  • Golspie High School, Golspie
  • Hermitage Academy, Helensburgh
  • Nairn Academy, Nairn
  • Portree High School, Portree
  • Sandwick Junior High, Shetland
  • Shawbost Community School, Lewis

The event will be split into three rounds. In the Grand Final the two highest scoring teams will debate: 'This house believes that renewable energy is crucial to our nation's energy security.’

The programme has been running in schools since 2006 with pupils researching and debating the issues surrounding renewable energy.

The Big Green Challenge aims to raise awareness and understanding of renewable energy by giving young people the opportunity to research and debate the issues surrounding this important topic. It will also highlight the important role the Highlands and Islands is playing, and could continue to play, in the development of a green, sustainable future.

The competition will promote the career opportunities open to young people in this emerging sector.

Participating schools have held in-class debates to select one or two teams to go forward to the regional heats competing against local schools. Each school also had a renewable energy expert visit to help them prepare for the competition. Seventeen schools put forward 29 teams to compete at the regional heats, from which eight teams were selected for the finals. Fourteen schools also received mentoring from renewable energy experts or STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology, Maths) Ambassadors.

Anna Allan, senior development manager in HIE's energy team, said: "Every year the pupils and students who take part in this competition put in a huge amount of work researching and debating the pros and cons of renewable energy, and 2013 has been no different. The Big Green Challenge is all about engaging with young people on a very important topic and encouraging debate. From the quality of the debates in earlier stages of the competition, I expect this to be an excellent event.

"Here in the Highlands and Islands renewable energy offers us a unique and time-limited opportunity to play a lead role in the development of clean, sustainable energy. We therefore want to ensure that our future decision makers understand the issues and see both sides of the debate. It is also important to highlight the opportunities the industry can offer in terms of economic and community benefits and importantly for this age group what careers will be on offer."

Karen Anderson, Project Developer at SSE, said: “We are delighted to be able to sponsor the Big Green Challenge.  As well as being a natural fit with our schools liaison programme, it’s also great to support an initiative that encourages young people to talk about renewable energy with enthusiasm and passion.

“The importance of renewables to the Highlands and Islands continues to increase and, by having this opportunity to debate its impact, I hope that the students are inspired to find out more about the industry or even consider a future career in the renewables sector.”

The event will take place between 9.30am and 4.30pm and can be watched live at Holyrood TV and the results will be announced at around 4.20pm. The agenda and details of the debate motions can be downloaded from the Big Green Challenge website.

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