East Anglia’s energy sector confident of a bright future
As delegates from across the UK and Europe gather for the East of England’s largest-ever energy conference at the Norfolk Showground today, we asked industry leaders how they saw the sector progressing in the year ahead.
Simon Gray, EEEGR chief executive
The East of England is the gas capital of the UK, home to the largest offshore wind farms in the world and has massive new build nuclear opportunities at Sizewell and Bradwell.
The region is the third largest contributor to the national purse after London and the South East, yet all we hear about is government investment in the Northern Power House, Midland Engine and Scottish Enterprise.
When is the East of England going to get the investment, and focus that other regions get? If we are to get more investment in the SNS gas basin to reap the huge potential we still have with new tight gas reserves, coupled with continued development of wind farm projects and new build nuclear, we need clarity of government strategy on UK energy.
EEEGR, the county councils and the New Anglia LEP will all be seeking greater clarification to ensure we have an ongoing pipeline of projects to keep our industry, its supply chain and it skills providers busy for decades to come.
Graham Hacon, 3sun Group chief executive
Offshore wind is already seeing rapid increases in activity and employment this year as projects off the east coast progress.
Becoming a more mature industry means the fast-developing sector’s early cyclical nature, with peaks and troughs of activity in life cycles of individual projects, is stepping up to constant activity. Coupled with operations and maintenance activity on established wind farms around the UK, as well as overseas activity, employment in the sector is increasing all the time and will continue for decades.
Installation methods are also changing. Smarter working means more turbine assembly work will be completed onshore in the new pre-assembly phase, which is helping to push down costs.
In oil and gas, the market is beginning to pick up, especially around rejuvenation of the Southern North Sea and decommissioning, with extended life and opportunities predicted to increase.
Charlie Jordan, East Anglia ONE project manager, ScottishPower Renewables
In a relatively short timeframe offshore wind has matured from an experimental technology to become a mainstream industry, forming a significant part of our electricity generation mix.
The UK is at the forefront of this burgeoning industry and the future of offshore wind is now around growth and innovation, which in turn will deliver efficiencies across the sector.
East Anglia is already becoming a major hub for offshore wind and is perfectly placed to drive growth and efficiency in the sector. ScottishPower Renewables is planning to build four projects in the Southern North Sea (SNS) and we are committed to helping to grow the supply chain in the UK and encouraging new talent in to the offshore wind industry.
The SNS is perfectly placed for developing offshore wind, with its shallow water depths, favourable seabed conditions, proximity to shore and high wind speeds.
Andy Paine, head of offshore wind development (UK), Vattenfall
East Anglia is one of the best places to develop offshore wind, of anywhere in the world.
We are confident that the region will capture the benefits that come with major investments like Vattenfall’s 3.6GW Norfolk Vanguard and Norfolk Boreas.
The sector has clearly risen to the low cost challenge set by the UK government and we expect Westminster to respond positively to that. We also expect the UK supply chain – with the support of government – to keep pace with that cost reduction, and even lead on the innovation and investment needed to help drive it further.
And whilst we are on this path to a cost level that can more than hold its own with all other generating technologies, the government must continue to encourage the industry by delivering its timetable on longer term policy support. With that long term certainty I am confident this part of the East of England can create an offshore wind industry that will rival any industrial hub in Europe.
David Rowan, managing director, EPIC International Ltd
In March last year, the oil industry was into recession and we were all talking about how hard times were going to be.
At EPIC International we saw it as an opportunity. It gave us time to reflect on what direction we needed to take. To survive in the new era of the oil industry in the East of England, companies have to be more diverse than they were.
We are not going to see the glory days in oil again that we have had in the past. Businesses will still be there, but I do not think there will be the margins in the job that there used to be. We are looking at a recovery of oil prices, but the industry generally will cut its cloth to suit the oil price. EPIC also works with the drilling sector and we can see it is slightly up on last year. Drilling is a marker for us in the industry.
I think this year we are going to see a steady climb. Projects will start to get sanctioned for execution in the beginning of next year.
Martin Myhill-Sisley, managing director renewables, James Fisher Marine Services
James Fisher Marine Services Ltd (JFMS) has formalised its move from OrbisEnergy, to Horn Hill in Lowestoft, following strong growth in the region over the last five years.
Martin Myhill-Sisley, managing director renewables at JFMS, said: “Moving forward as a business JFMS, through the integrating contractor model, reflects our view of the future, and this investment demonstrates our confidence in being part of that future. JFMS is proud to be part of a sustainable future delivered through collaboration, innovation and a skilled local workforce.
A recent report revealed that the cost of developing offshore wind has moved from around £150 per MWh to around £97 per MWh – now below the UK government and industry target. This has been largely achieved through a competitive funding framework, the increasing size of turbines, and a new contracting model fit for purpose.”