This was my sixth Ecobuild, four as an exhibitor, two a visitor, and it’s fair to say I got a lot more done as a visitor, and I wasn’t alone in that. I even wore out my shoes rather than my knees!
I heard one commentator say this year was more interesting for who wasn’t exhibiting as for who was. There certainly is truth in that, but I think it goes deeper than just who isn’t paying for a stand this year.
There were certainly absences from companies which had previously had big stands – SMA, Fronius, Hyundai, ABB/Power One, Vaillant, Daikin and Dimplex to name a few of the more obvious ones. Many of them chose instead to take a small space with a distributor or trade association, while a few were not in evidence at all.
This is probably partly due to the fact that Ecobuild as a show is changing as well as the market.
Ecobuild is essentially still a building and construction show, as those that ventured out of the solar area in the south hall, or renewable heat areas in the north would have seen.
While in 2011 it pretty much became “the solar show”, and it has over the last few years had a significant renewables presence, it has become (or maybe always was underneath) far more of a consumer show, attracting the domestic, self-build and small commercial builders and installers.
The sandals and mustard corduroys of early years have largely gone, but there were still a fair few pushchairs I had to avoid bumping into. Many of the talks played to this audience too. This isn’t a bad thing. While the halls were slightly smaller, and footfall lighter, most people I spoke to who were exhibiting had a good show. We certainly did.
A number of solar manufacturer clients I spoke with are diverting resource to October’s Solar Energy UK show at the NEC in Birmingham, and of course Intersolar in Munich in June. The last SEUK was excellent and very well attended and far more of a ‘trade’ show.
I could be wrong, but I see this trend continuing with Nextgen/EBAC very much the renewable heat show and SEUK very much the solar trade show.
Of course there are others, All Energy, now in Glasgow rather than Aberdeen, will be interesting, as was Energy Now in Telford, but, like Ecobuild, I increasingly get the feeling these shows are very much attracting end users, self-builders and smaller installers.
Having said all of this, there were certainly deals being done at Ecobuild – some of them large ones.
However, as one mounting kit manufacturer observed over coffee one morning, there was a feeling these deals could just as easily have occurred off-site in a hotel reception without the need for the expense of exhibiting in the hall!
Clearly this wouldn’t be the case for all exhibitors, but the solar ones probably. That perhaps is a saving grace for Ecobuild, being in London, where so much is being done to provide innovative and creative funding packages and solutions, from domestic to utility scale. London continually provides funding solutions for a global renewables market. They may not have stands at Ecobuild, but they were certainly here in force.
So what future for the show? As a fan of Ecobuild and long-time attendee, I hope the future is a long and prosperous one. It is certainly a great get-together opportunity early in the year for those with some years in the sector, and for all manufacturers and distributors it is a showcase for the end user, builder and installer market.
Despite this, I do expect to see a further shrinking of the event next year, less big stands from renewable manufacturers, more from distributors and merchants and the building materials sector.
Ecobuild has never really had a ‘wind’ presence – RenewablesUK takes care of that, while Solar Energy UK and Intersolar are the big shows for solar manufacturers. I’m not quite sure about the biomass and heat pump and renewable heat. Volumes are far lower, so Ecobuild, Nextgen, All Energy and the like will probably continue to serve them well.
In conclusion, I came away impressed and enthused by what I saw. Ecobuild is evolving, just as it should, to reflect a dynamic market. Long live Ecobuild…now it is Munich and Birmingham’s turn!
David Hunt is Managing Partner of Hyperion Search. He also sits on the policy board of the Renewable Energy Association (REA).