A team of pupils from Charleston Academy in Inverness have today (Friday 7 June) been hailed as the Highlands and Islands’ top young renewable energy experts, after the Scottish Parliament played host to the climax of this year’s Big Green Challenge debating competition.
The grand final of the competition, which is organised by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), saw the finalists from eight local heats debating highly topical renewable energy issues.
The event is sponsored by two major energy industry companies, SSE and Mitsubishi Power Systems Europe (MPSE).
The finalists were from: Alness Academy, Alness; Charleston Academy, Inverness; Golspie High School, Golspie; Hermitage Academy, Helensburgh; Nairn Academy, Nairn; Portree High School, Portree; Sandwick Junior High, Shetland and Shawbost Community School, Lewis.
Pupils Katie Stark, Jemimah Morris and Morvern Carmichael successfully fought off the competition to take the title.
The winners are set to visit a renewables project in action. The runners-up, were Sandwick Junior High, Shetland, represented by Lucy Simpson, Megan Leslie and Lucy Morris.
Kay Storey, teacher at Charleston Academy, said: "I am so proud of the pupils. They did a fantastic job today and I am delighted that all their hard work has paid off. All the teams were impressive, so they have had some stiff competition to beat. They have really enjoyed the competition, and the opportunity to travel to Edinburgh to debate at the Scottish Parliament has been a great experience for them."
Katie Stark from the Charleston team, said: "The Big Green Challenge has been such a great experience and we are so happy to have won. Taking part in the competition has given us all the confidence to speak in front of large audiences. We have learnt so much about renewable energy during our research which will stick with us for life."
A total of 29 teams from 17 schools have competed in the local heats. Schools have had renewable energy experts visit to help them prepare for the competition.
Craig Spence, Board member of HIE and chair of the judging panel at the Big Green Challenge finals, said: “This has been an inspiring event. All the finalists have been amazing and congratulations go to Charleston Academy. My fellow judges on the panel are experts in the energy industry and we were all incredibly impressed with the quality of the arguments and points being debated by these S1-3 pupils.
"The growth of renewable energy will be in the hands of these young people and this is a great initiative to spark interest and stimulate new ideas for the future.”
Craig was joined on the judging panel by: by Karen Anderson, SSE, Jamie Taylor, Artemis Intelligent Power, a group company of MPSE, and Judith Patten, All-Energy.
Peter Clusky, MPSE’s Senior Manager Renewable Energy, said: "The 2013 Big Green Challenge provided an exciting forum for intelligent and well balanced debate. Mitsubishi Power Systems Europe is very pleased to be able to support Highlands and Islands Enterprise with the BGC alongside our partners SSE. The BGC is a fantastic opportunity for young people to have their say on the energy challenges facing the UK. Its been very helpful to understand local opinions in relation to the potential options for a future low carbon energy mix. Mitsubishi Power Systems Europe would like to congratulate the winners and runners-up, and thank all of the teams and organisers involved."
Karen Anderson, Project Developer at SSE, said: "It's been a real honour to judge the Big Green Challenge finals. I have been so impressed by the young people and the quality of their debates. They have clearly done their research and put a great deal of effort into the competition.
"SSE is delighted to sponsor this competition and by giving young people the opportunity to debate the impact of renewables I hope that the students are inspired to find out more about the industry or even consider a future career in the sector."
Judith Patten, Project Director at All Energy, said: "Judging the Big Green can be described as a magic combination of stimulating and exhausting! It is quite amazing just how talented and knowledgable all the youngsters are. I have a feeling that we can expect some of them to be politicians and lawyers of tomorrow, and on a personal basis I look forward to them speaking at a future All Energy conference."
Yvonne Malcolmson, teacher at Sandwick Junior High said: "The team were fantastic and did exceptionally well to get all the way to the grand final debate here at the Scottish parliament. The girls have done a lot of research and they had some tricky positions to debate in terms of opposing the motions. They have had great fun and are delighted with their runners up prizes."
Lucy Simpson from the Sandwick team said: "It has been so much fun and a really good experience. Now we're looking forward to a different type of renewables - renewing our wardrobes at the shops in Aberdeen on the way home to Shetland tomorrow!"
The finalists debated: 'This house believes that renewable energy is crucial to our nation's energy security’.