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Renewable Energy not a Challenge for Highlands and Islands teens

18 June 2014

Pupils hope to take home top prize at the Big Green Challenge

Young renewable energy experts will descend on the Scottish Parliament this week (Friday 20 June) as school teams from across the Highlands and Islands to battle it out to win the grand final of the Big Green Challenge debating competition.

The Big Green Challenge is a Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) initiative that looks to increase awareness and understanding of renewable energy. The innovative project is sponsored by SSE Renewables and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Europe and aims to help a new generation of young Scots learn and understand more about renewable energy. The competition involves school pupils (S1-3) from across the Highlands and Islands taking part in live debates against other schools. The winning team will be going on an all-expenses paid trip to see renewable energy in action.

Renewable energy is a sector with high growth potential which will benefit the local economy and communities across the region. Increasing Scotland’s renewable energy generation is also a key Scottish Government pledge, with the aim of 100% of Scotland’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020. 70 pupils from 10 schools have been working to research both sides of the renewables debate in preparation for the final.

Last year’s winning team was Charleston Academy and the team are looking forward to taking part again this year to defend their title. Teacher Kay Storey says, “The Big Green Challenge competition helps our pupils learn so much about renewable energy and the steps we can all take to reduce our carbon footprint. It’s a great opportunity for them to boost their public speaking skills and confidence too. The pupils have worked really hard to produce a high standard of debate again and always have a fantastic time whatever the outcome.“

Host for the grand final event will be former BBC Scotland's Chief Weather Forecaster and Presenter Heather Reid OBE. Ms Reid is committed to working with teachers to deliver highly successful science education and activities. She says, “The Highlands and Islands boasts extensive wind, wave and tidal energy potential and it is the young adults in our schools today who will drive this industry forward. It’s really important for young people to develop an awareness of the issues surrounding renewable energy which are becoming ever more relevant. The Big Green Challenge is an excellent way of doing this – and ensuring they can see both sides of the renewables debate.”

Iseabail Mactaggart, board member of the Highlands and Islands Enterprise and one of the judges for the event says, ‘This competition is very important to Highlands and Islands Enterprise. The vibrant renewable energy sector needs a skilled workforce and we want to encourage youngsters across the Highlands and Islands to consider a career in these fascinating industries. The debating competition gives the school teams the chance to work together, develop arguments and respond to points being made by their competitors. They’re learning skills vital to the workplace.

“Being a judge again isn’t an easy task. The standards set by the teams are high and it is a privilege to listen to the debates and doubtless I’ll learn something once more!”

For further information on the Big Green Challenge log on to

The schools taking part in the Big Green Challenge grand final are:

Nairn Academy, Millburn Academy, Lossiemouth High School, Charleston Academy, Portree High School , Hermitage Academy, Alness Academy and Kingussie High School

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